Broward County construction workers who said Monday that they have not been paid for several weeks of work at a Fort Lauderdale building project are looking at their legal options to recover their wages.
According to the workers, about 50 men have not received wages for anywhere from three weeks to two months after working 10 hours or more a day at the Northwest Gardens project, which consists of 150 new townhomes and apartments designed for working families.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the project “is a partnership between the city’s Housing Authority and Miami-based Carlisle Development Group.” The Housing Authority, as well as the mayor and commissioners Bobby Du Bose and Charlotte Rodstrom, did not return calls to discuss the unpaid wages.
Andres, a worker who asked that we not use his last name, tells The Florida Independent that he has a Thursday meeting scheduled with an attorney in Miami to discuss which of the construction companies involved the workers should sue to have their wages paid.
Jeanette Smith of the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force, alerted by the Independent about the Northwest Gardens situation, says she will go with Andres to visit the lawyer on Thursday. Smith says that if this case had occurred in Miami-Dade, the workers could have used that county’s wage theft ordinance to fight for their wages.
“The workers could have gone to the county’s [Small Business Development] that would look at the situation to see if it falls under their jurisdiction or the federal Department of Labor,” Smith says. She adds that “most of the time construction is something they [SBD] handle themselves.”
Smith explains that under the wage theft ordinance, “workers first have to make a demand to the employer for their wages, in the form of a letter,” then the employer receives a phone call, “which is a chance to remedy the situation right there.”
“If the call does not work,” Smith says, the Small Business Division sends the employer the letter. If the situation is still not resolved, it will got to a hearing. “If they know they owe, they’ll take care of it right away,” Smith says.
BJ&K Construction and Florida Shell Construction representatives told the Independent on Monday that Pozo Construction was responsible for hiring and paying the workers, but Pozo’s David Sonk said Florida Shell has not paid him the money necessary to pay the workers.
“This is an incredibly common excuse here in construction in Miami-Dade,” Smith says. “It is how they pass the buck: ‘I haven’t been paid yet, so I can’t pay you.’ But that is not how pay works. You took on the obligation of employing these people; it is of no concern to them where your money comes from. It may come from your wife, but it is your obligation to pay them.”
Andres, who is undocumented, has lived in the U.S. for 22 years, and has a 15-year-old U.S.-born daughter. “When a worker does not get paid, it’s his children who suffer,” he says.