My name is Douglas Alberto Guerra and I have been a member of CTUL for 3 years. I have been a construction worker in the drywall area for 16 years and I live in Brooklyn Park, MN with my family.
Wage theft is the biggest problem we face in the construction industry as workers. Construction workers deserve a system where wage theft doesn’t happen.
I have had several experiences with wage theft in the construction industry. The first was about 4 years ago when I did some work for a company and they did not pay me or my crew. We tried to recover our salaries with the help of CTUL but we never found the company’s address so nothing could be done. He owed us more than $7,000.
Another experience I had with wage theft occurred directly with a homeowner. He accused me and my crew that we had damaged the fence of his property. Then later he said that he was going to give us some old sofas that he had as compensation. I told him “No, I don’t need a sofa, I need money to pay people and to pay my bills”.
In my most recent wage theft case, we put a lien on the construction site and we are going to go to conciliation court to try to recover it. After many attempts to contact the contractor, yesterday we tried calling him and he said “I don’t know who you are” and hung up. Workers should not need to do all of this to receive our fair pay.
It is a common problem in construction because there is no accountability system between the workers and those at the top. We are not prioritized in the system that was set up by the contractors and developers. We want to be protected.
Through the pandemic, construction workers practically never stopped working. There was always work and the developers made a lot of money because most of the money goes to them. I’m hearing that the price of houses is increasing a lot right now. The price of houses goes up but wages stay the same. Where does that money go? Banks or developers. The most essential workers in this system barely see money.
Right now in the construction industry there is a system where developers demand the cheapest possible work. It impacts all workers because there are many contractors who pressure workers to do the work for less than half the cost of the work. Many companies are looking for labor that is cheaper and cheaper and sometimes the work won’t be high quality. This can be dangerous because developers want cheaper labor and they end up building houses that may not be secure for people to live in.
When companies demand increasingly cheaper labor costs, contractors are not paid enough, workers are pressured to do the work as fast as possible for the cheapest possible pay, and ultimately the housing may not be built at top quality. It is a system that harms both the worker and the tenants of the house or building.
As a member of the construction committee with CTUL, we are working on several projects to bring an end to wage theft in the industry and build a new system that is fairer to some of the most essential workers in our communities. We are calling on developers to sign into an independent monitoring program that guarantees basic protections for workers through Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council (BDC).