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Recapping the Community Report: Insights from the State of Construction

I’m excited to tell you about our first annual report on the State of Construction, which we delivered on March 28th to a group of 34 workers, 11 partners, and 303 viewers across Facebook Live.

The State of Construction highlighted how Hispanic immigrant construction workers face a much different industry than many of their English speaking counterparts.

Wage theft and a lack of workers comp insurance is rampant in the construction industry. According to the Joint Enforcement Task Force on Payroll Fraud and Worker Misclassification, the 2021 report found that misclassified construction workers earn about $23,500 less per year than correctly classified workers. Additionally, the latest Task Force report from 2022 showed that the DWD recovered over $700,000 in unpaid wages which is just a percentage of the total amount stolen from workers every year. Immigrant workers are especially targeted for these exploitative practices.

Marlon Velazquez, a local construction worker, shared insights of the industry, especially his experience with wage theft between November 2022 and April 2023 and how he got together with other workers to recover their unpaid wages.

“In July 2023, my coworkers and I went as a group to the offices of Stevens Construction to recuperate our stolen wages. We told them [the company that owed the group their wages directly] that FDM owed us a total of $22,000. Because, according [to FDM] Stevens also hadn’t paid. Stevens suggested that we speak with FDM. But when we let them know that we weren’t going to disappear without a solution, Stevens finally pressured FDM.”

Marlon’s experience was an eye opener for many attendees, with workers feeling shocked by how low industry giants can go, and many allies calling the event a necessary step forward.

“To workers like myself I want to say: your immigration status doesn’t matter! Labor rights are for everyone! American, immigrant, with or without a work permit—we are human beings and we have to assert our rights together!”

At Worker Justice Wisconsin, we are fighting for higher industry standards. If you have experienced unfair working conditions and are ready to fight for change, email me at daniela@workerjustice.org or call 608-590-8582.

In solidarity,

Daniela Jaime
Lead Construction Organizer