**JANUARY 15, 2020 – PRESS RELEASE**
Contact: Isa Escalona, firstname.lastname@example.org, 708-557-1119
Judge Issues Sentencing in First Labor Trafficking Trial in Hennepin County
Ricardo Batres sentenced to 270 days in the Workhouse and 5 years probation for labor trafficking and insurance fraud while working on projects of large developers like Lennar Homes
This morning a judge issued sentencing in the first labor trafficking case to be tried in Hennepin County. Late last year, on November 18, 2019, State of Minnesota vs. Ricardo Ernesto Batres began and resulted in a plea bargain by the defense. Batres pled guilty to labor trafficking and insurance fraud, both felonies. This is the first ever labor trafficking conviction in Hennepin County history. Sentencing includes 270 days in the Workhouse, 5 years probation, and permanently debarred from state and federal contracts. .
Following the sentencing announcement, a representative of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office read anonymous Victim Impact Statements that detail the suffering and hardships faced by some of the workers Batres exploited. One worker-leader stated that “This man took advantage of us since we did not know our rights. He did whatever he wanted to do with us. The back pain I suffer from is chronic. Sometimes I cannot sleep. Sometimes I cannot work. This will affect my future”. Another worker-leader stated “He is capable of anything. There are many rumors that I have heard such that he is going to make up pay quite a bit for having worked against him in this present case”. I think the proposed jail time is not enough. He needs to see what it is like to suffer the consequences of his actions. I think he is a danger to society”.
Witnesses in the case first came forward with the support of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), a community organization based in the Twin Cities that educates workers about their workplace rights. A CTUL spokesperson read a Community Impact Statement at the sentencing explaining the broader impacts of Batres’ actions in the industry (Read CTUL’s full statement here):
“So what is the real impact of Batres’ actions in this case? Large developers and finance behind those developers have learned that they can put downward pressure on contractors on their projects to build the projects as quickly and cheaply as possible… Contractors like Batres then step into this space and firmly establish a culture of fear within the workforce by threatening workers and retaliating against workers who stand up for their rights. While Batres is not the only contractor behaving this way in the industry, he was a trailblazer in finding creative ways to cut costs on the backs of workers.”
Following the guilty plea, CTUL partnered with the Worker’s Social Responsibility (WSR) Network to publish a report that highlights the systemic nature of exploitative practices in non-union construction work in the Twin Cities metro area, beyond the Batres case. The report points out that CTUL is currently investigating four other labor trafficking cases involving dozens of construction workers in the Twin Cities, details workers’ stories of abuse, and proposes a long-term solution to the problem through a new independent monitoring agency – Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council. Read the full BDR report here.