Suit alleges construction workers underpaid

Construction workers in Nevada, California and Arizona were underpaid for at least the past four years, according to allegations in a federal lawsuit against a large residential construction company and its subsidiaries.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America announced the lawsuit against Building Materials Holding Corp. and its subsidiaries, including SelectBuild, at Tuesday news conferences in Los Angeles, Phoenix and at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas.

The union is involved in an organizing campaign at SelectBuild. BMHC and SelectBuild called the lawsuit meritless.

The 14 plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles.

“They weren’t paying us for all our hours,” said Eduardo Acevedo, a 35-year-old SelectBuild construction worker from Las Vegas. “Our employer has not been held accountable for what it has been doing and we seek justice.”

Another local worker, Alejandro Rivas, said he has worked up to 60 hours some weeks but has been paid only for 40.

Both men are involved in the union’s organizing campaign.

BMHC and SelectBuild issued a written statement in response to the lawsuit on Tuesday. The companies called the lawsuit “part of an ongoing union campaign to force the company to recognize it as the bargaining agent for employees.”

“BMHC and SelectBuild fully comply with federal and state wage practices and believe this suit is without merit,” the statement said. “We intend to defend against it vigorously.”

The workers asked for unspecified unpaid wages, including overtime pay, damages and attorneys’ fees.

Union officials also released a report on Tuesday titled “The Newest Victims of the Housing Market Crisis: The Men and Women Who Build America’s Homes,” which states that residential construction companies nationwide have underpaid workers to the tune of at least $750 million a year.

Workers detailed several types of underpayment, according to the union: being denied full or partial payment of wages, being required to perform off-the-clock work, not being paid for overtime work and not being paid for time spent traveling between job sites.

SelectBuild employed an average of 10,000 workers during the peak housing boom years of 2005-07, according to the union.

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