Latino Union of Chicago demands Evanston construction company pay worker owed wages

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Nick Francis/Daily Senior Staffer

Organizers speak at the protest. The Latino Union of Chicago held a protest Thursday to demand Evanston-based construction company Continental Construction pay a worker wages.

Christina Van Waasbergen, Reporter

The Latino Union of Chicago held a protest Thursday in front of the office of Evanston-based construction company Continental Construction, demanding the company pay the wages a day laborer says he is owed. 

The Latino Union of Chicago is a workers’ center that advocates for non-unionized workers, including day laborers. 

Ramirez, who asked that only his last name be used, said he was contracted by Continental Construction to do work on a local baseball field and two houses, one in Evanston and another in Winnetka. He said the owner of the company, Thomas Andrews, agreed to pay him $4,000 for the work, which he completed in October 2020.

But after months of fighting, Ramirez said that Andrews has only paid him $1,500 and still owes him $2,500 for his work. 

“(Andrews) is stealing from me,” Ramirez said. “He is taking advantage of (the pandemic). Like Latino Union says, ‘A day worked is a day paid.’ But he never honored that. He never paid me when I was supposed to be paid.”

Man in a dark blue shirt with black curly hair and a black mask. A parking lot is blurred in the background.
Ramirez at the protest. Ramirez, who was contracted by Continental Construction, completed work on three local projects in October 2020. To this day, he has been paid only $1,500 of the total $4,000 he is owed, he said. (Nick Francis/Daily Senior Staffer)

Mauricio Huertas, the director of development and communications for the Latino Union, said Continental Construction has given a number of reasons why it has not yet paid Ramirez in full, such as financial difficulties due to the pandemic, an explanation Huertas said is disproved by the fact that the company is still operating and actively contracting workers.

Evelyn Vargas, a labor organizer for the Latino Union, said the Union knows of at least three other workers whom the company has not fully paid.

“This is urgent because I need my wages,” Ramirez said. “I can no longer wait on (Andrews’) promises, his lies. It is urgent that I be paid now.”

Continental Construction did not immediately respond to The Daily’s request for comment. 

At the protest, demonstrators taped a copy of a letter from the Latino Union to the company’s door. Vargas said the Union has tried to give letters to the company before, but the demonstrators were denied entry.

“This (letter) is for everybody who is walking by to see that Latino Union and Evanston was here to demand payment and let everybody know exactly what this company is like,” Vargas said.

A cream-colored building with a white door. A white rectangular poster with black lettering is taped onto the door.
The door of the Continental Construction office in Evanston. Demonstrators taped a copy of a letter with a list of demands to the company’s door. (Nick Francis/Daily Senior Staffer)

The letter included a list of demands for the company to address the situation, and that included a call for Continental Construction to fully pay Ramirez by the end of May 2021.

The letter also demanded the company use contract agreements with dates, names and a business address for future agreements with workers. Huertas said this would create a more solid paper trail than simply relying on verbal agreements, as Ramirez said was done in his case.

Additionally, the letter demanded Continental Construction stop paying workers through check-cashing services without providing a business card or other attributable business information. Huertas said without this information, it is difficult for workers to contact the company if there is an issue with a payment. 

The letter also called on the company to pay all its workers the agreed-upon amounts at the agreed-upon time.

Several Evanston and Chicago-based organizations, like St. Nicholas Church and Multilingual Connections, signed the letter.

Vargas said the Latino Union is organizing a phone campaign for Friday, during which organizers want people to call Continental Construction and demand they pay Ramirez the rest of the money.

Huertas said phone campaigns are “a way of letting (companies) know that their community members, their neighbors, the people in the communities they are working in are concerned with their business practices.”

Nick Francis contributed reporting. 

 

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Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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