Grit Nation - The Building Trades Podcast

Stolen - Wage Theft in Construction - Blusky Expose

October 03, 2021 Season 3 Episode 2
Grit Nation - The Building Trades Podcast
Stolen - Wage Theft in Construction - Blusky Expose
Show Notes

Use the link below to see the NBC Nightly News Story.

This episode of Stolen begins in the early morning of August 2020, when a storm system develops on the barren plains of the Nebraska and South Dakota border. 

Known as a Derecho, Spanish for straight, these type’s of storms are powerful, fast-moving systems that can generate hurricane force winds, and create tornados, heavy rains, and flash flooding. 

For two days the derecho battered the mid-west and caused an estimated 7.5 billion dollars in damage.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa was one of the hardest hit areas. 

There the storm caused power outages, gas leaks and extensive wind and water damage to residences, buildings, and schools.

Among the many businesses that suffered significant damage was a senior living community just a few miles from downtown called Cottage Grove Place.

Later that same year, in October, 6 Latino workers loaded into pickup trucks and began the 1000-mile drive f rom Houston, Texas to Cedar Rapids. 

They had been hired by a labor broker named Pablo Ramirez to work on the retirement community.

Pablo, was subcontracted by Blusky, a restoration and repair company based out of Denver, Colorado to supply the manpower to do the repairs.

Hired on as carpenters and laborers, the out of state workers agreed to be paid a flat wage that depended on their experience. 

It ranged somewhere between $100 to $250 dollars a day. 

Additionally, Pablo promised to pay his workers weekly, reimburse their travel expenses and arrange for their lodging while working in Iowa. 

It sounded like a sweet deal and as the crew headed north, their spirits were high. 

Steady work and a place to stay. What could be better? 

Little did they know as they began their long drive north they were headed into a Derecho all their own. 

Welcome to Stolen, a special series within the Grit NW podcast that investigates 

wage theft, tax fraud and worker misclassification. 

The goal of Stolen is to shine a light on the crooked contractors who perpetrate these greed driven crimes and expose the damage that they do to the U.S taxpayer and the working middle class.

In this episode we investigate just what went wrong in Cedar Rapids 

and how the 6 Blusky employees from Texas eventually found themselves without food, lodging or even the money to get home.

To help me tell this story I spoke with Royce Peterson the carpenter’s union, lead business representative in Eastern Iowa.

Joining us on the call were Public Affairs Director Richard Kajayski and Burt Johnson, General Counsel from the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

NW Carpenters Union
United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Regional Council in the Pacific NW 6 states + 29k members strong!!

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