Despite settlement, little known about immigrants
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
After months of silence, the identities, whereabouts and wage settlements of the eight undocumented workers who were allegedly exploited during the construction of the Capstone Development Corporation project, The Cottages of Durham, still remain confidential.
The workers claimed they were owed tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages for several months of labor in February. Dozens of community members and activists gathered at the Community Church in Durham and later in front of the Jenkins Court Cottages of Durham office to rally on the workers’ behalf.
“It took a strong case by the workers themselves and from the public, student groups, [and] community members to receive settlement,” Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee said.
The workers received settlement for several months of unpaid labor a week after the rally. Their settlement attorney, Lawrence Vogelman, negotiated their salaries with Cottage Builders, the construction division of the Capstone Development Corporation. Capstone Vice President John Acken said the workers were paid in full, but he declined to comment on the amount of payment they received.
The locations of the workers, who were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after they reported unpaid wages to the Dover Police Department, cannot be disclosed at this time. Fogarty said the workers are safe, healthy and have immigration attorneys who are currently engaged in a discussion about their immigration statuses.
“While it was certainly a relief for the workers to finally get adequately compensated for the hard work they have done, their lives remain very challenging,” Fogarty said.
Acken declined to disclose the identities of the subcontractor and the second-tier subcontractor that were involved on the site, but said they no longer work for Cottage Builders.
“Our main concern was that everyone was treated fairly, which is why we immediately launched our investigation,” Acken said. “We went through and investigated the claims of the workers and determined if any payments were still due, and made sure that they were treated fairly.”
Paul Stokes, who is a labor inspector for the New Hampshire Department of Labor, was conducting an inspection on the construction site at the time of the protest. He said workers came forward, confirming these allegations at the time.
Shortly after the settlement, Cottage Builders invited Stokes onto the Technology Drive construction site to train subcontractors on New Hampshire labor laws. According to Acken, Cottage Builders has worked closely with the NHDOL since they began their investigation.
“I went back and talked to subcontractors to make sure they knew what their responsibilities were under New Hampshire law,” Stokes said. “The last few times I was there, everyone was doing what they were supposed to, as far as I can tell.”
Stokes said Cottage Builders fired the subcontracting company they hired when their investigation revealed irregularities in business conduct. Cottage Builders immediately volunteered to pay the workers.
“Cottage Builders assumed responsibility to control their job site,” Stokes said. “They wanted to make sure the situation was fair and that their workers were paid.”
The responsible subcontracting company left the state after the conclusion of the investigation, Stokes said. The NHDOL has not received any complaints about Cottage Builders since the incident.
Currently, the construction project is finishing up and is scheduled to be complete by Aug. 1, Acken said.
“We are excited,” Acken said. “It’s going to be a terrific year. We’re looking forward to opening.”