August 5, 2008

KB Home employees go unpaid

Aug 5, 2008 02:22 PM CDT

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- The Workers Defense Project will hold a protest Thursday for a group of seven construction workers who labored on several of KB Home's premier properties in South Austin.

Immigrant workers and their supporters will gather to hold KB Home accountable for labor abuses taking place on several of their housing projects in Austin.

In April 2008, Ramiro Mora, Oscar Quezada, and five other workers were hired by Ken Westlake to complete framing and interior detail work on seven new KB Home properties located in a subdivision in South Austin.

However, the workers were never paid for their last two weeks of work. Owed nearly $10,000, they came to the Workers Defense Project in May to seek assistance in recovering their wages.

Mora is still owed approximately $1,000.

"We deserve to be paid for our work," said Mora. "We worked hard building these beautiful homes that will sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet Mr. Westlake and KB Homes don't even have the decency to make sure their workers are paid."

The workers also worked for Westlake on another property in South Austin, Deatonhill Condominiums, owned by Land Development Services, Inc.

Within a week of hearing about the unpaid wages, Land Development Services, Inc. took swift action to ensure that the workers were paid $1,360 in back wages by Westlake.

"The residential construction industry is rife with abuses," said Emily Timm, a community organizer with the Workers Defense Project. "We're calling upon the large builders and developers to take a stand against wage theft and to set an example as industry leaders. KB needs to take responsibility for the subcontractors it hires to build its homes."

Workers Defense Project is assisting the workers in filing property liens on the KB Home properties for the approximately $7000 still owed to them.

Wage theft for low-wage workers has a profound impact on working families.

"After my husband didn't get paid for that job, we needed money desperately, so he had to take a job in Nebraska to support our family," said Ericka Solis, wife to one of the workers and mother of two young children. "Now, it's been months since we've seen him."

Organizers and workers will protest Aug. 7 outside the offices of KB Homes and deliver a demand letter to KB Home, asking them to uphold a higher standard of ethics in the residential homebuilding industry.

Austin-based Workers Defense Project has recovered nearly $500,000 in unpaid wages since 2002 and educated thousands of low-wage workers about their rights.

More than 80 percent of the cases of wage theft reported to Workers Defense Project are from construction workers.

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