The public announcement of the labor trafficking charges against American Contractors and Associates, a contractor in the booming construction industry, has sent shock waves throughout the Twin Cities.
Several construction workers have come forward telling CTUL of similar experiences with this same contractor. In addition, workers are sharing stories on social media of extreme abuses by other contractors in the industry. Clearly this is not an isolated case, but is a symptom of a widespread and systemic problem in the industry.
The public statements of Reuter Walton Commercial, LLC and Lennar Corp. -- in sum, that they did not directly contract with American Contractors and Associates and therefore had no knowledge of the reported abuses taking place on their projects -- is highly disappointing.
This statement does not offer any meaningful solution to the problems faced by construction workers, beyond cooperation with law enforcement once such abuses are uncovered.
Let’s be clear.
This approach from developers and general contractors does nothing to detect and remedy existing abuses or to prevent future abuses. Worse, by denying ultimate responsibility for the working conditions on their projects, it is all but guaranteed that such abuses will continue to take place unchecked.
There is a better path forward.
With firsthand knowledge of the systemic abuses taking place in the industry, over the past year and a half, construction workers who are members of CTUL have been working with local and national experts in labor standards monitoring and enforcement to develop the Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council (BDRSC).
The goal of the BDRSC is to end labor trafficking and to ensure basic dignity and respect for all construction workers in the Twin Cities metro area.
DRSC invites developers and general contractors to join this new Program to ensure a new day in the industry.
Fernando Nuñez is CTUL’s Organizational Storyteller.