Six construction workers have teamed with a union to seek an alleged $15,000 in unpaid wages for their work on the Millennium on Post apartments.
About 20 protesters gathered at the apartment complex Aug. 16 to protest contractor Galaxy Builders Ltd. Some workers protested in hopes of receiving nearly two months worth of pay.
Jesus Contreras, a worker on the project, left after one month and said he received only $300 for hundreds of work hours. Subcontractors told Contreras he would be paid in cash at the end of each day. At the closing of the workday, he and other workers were told their checks had not come in, and would be paid at a later date.
Jorge Ramirez, Workers Defense Project intern, said the workers will pursue legal action if an agreement cannot be reached. Workers Defense Project officials will try to find legal counsel to represent the workers. Lawyers can help determine if Galaxy Builders Ltd. is responsible for the alleged claims of unpaid wages at Millennium.
Chris Franklin, project manager at Galaxy Builders, told the workers at the protest his company is not responsible.
Franklin said Galaxy Builders paid CBMJ Investments and Development Ltd. who, in turn, was supposed to pay the workers on the construction project. Calling CBMJ a “dubious” company, Franklin said all legal action has been taken on behalf of Galaxy Builders, and it is CBMJ who workers should be protesting.
CBMJ did not return multiple calls for comment.
Contreras said when wages were not received, six workers approached the Workers Defense Project. Workers Defense Project is an Austin-based organization focused on helping employees who do not get paid or receive below minimum wage.
Contreras said before leaving the project, workers spent 10 hours per day, Monday – Sunday at the site. He said it was difficult for the workers to not receive adequate pay for their work.
“We (the workers) fell behind on payments,” Contreras said. “We had to borrow money and accumulate debts we didn’t have.”
Contreras said the current subcontractor for Millennium is paying its workers. However, before it took over, a number of subcontractors were hired and then subsequently fired.
“We went through three subcontractors, and everyone got money except for us,” Contreras said. “We worked and they got the money.”
Ramirez said Galaxy Builders, the general contractor of the property, hired subcontractors but failed to check whether they had enough capital to undertake the project.
Ramirez said supervisors from Galaxy Builders were on site and aware workers were not receiving payment. He said supervisors allowed subcontractors to promise workers pay they would never receive.
Ramirez said more and more workers left the project as nonpayment continued.
“The reason they are behind on the project is they lost all the workers that didn’t get paid,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said only six workers came to Workers Defense Project, but there are more who did not receive the pay they earned. Almost 30 workers are owed a combined $100,000, according to one subcontractor Ramirez contacted.
“Galaxy benefited from the labor, property owners benefited from the labor, the building is almost ready for leasing and they’re going to start getting rents,” Ramirez said. “But the people who built the buildings didn’t get anything.”
Roberto Olgin, another former worker on the Millennium project, said he wants justice for the six workers who went to Workers Defense Project and for any others who have gone through a similar ordeal.
Olgin said the situation is like a magic act, because each contractor, and the money, disappeared without a trace.
“It was like magic,” Olgin said. “And it’s not just. We’re construction workers, but we all deserve pay.”