Denver workers sue construction companies

Affordable housing for the metro area’s working class is becoming more and more scarce, and it doesn’t help when those who need that housing are short-changed on their wages.

Today, 10 individuals who helped build a luxury high-rise in downtown Denver are suing the construction companies and “labor brokers” for pay they claim they earned but never received. They’re also suing for sexual discrimination tied to violations of equal pay laws.

The building is SkyHouse Denver, a 26-story high-rise under construction at 18th and Broadway, near the Brown Palace, and built on the site of the former Cosmopolitan Hotel, which was demolished in 2007. The site was a parking lot until last year.

According to The Denver Post, SkyHouse Denver will have 354 rental units, with rents beginning at $1,500 per month for a studio to a high of $3,750 monthly for a two-bedroom unit. The building is slated to open by fall, 2016.

The lawsuit is expected to seek class-action status, according to Nina DiSalvo of Towards Justice, with at least 100 affected workers in Colorado and thousands nationwide, she told The Colorado Independent today.

Those being sued include Circle Group, a drywall subcontractor; Gulf Coast Construction, and two companies identified as drywall contractors who also act as labor brokers: LA Drywall and Javier Martinez Drywall.

Labor brokers, according to a 2013 investigation by ProPublica, are hired by temporary staffing agencies and then recruit and transport workers to the job sites. The workers pay the labor broker for the transportation, but brokers also get paid for the number of workers they send to the job.

Often the workers are undocumented. Many are Latinos and speak little to no English.

Some labor brokers specifically recruit more vulnerable workers, according to DiSalvo. But wage laws protect workers regardless of immigration status.

“If you hire someone, you have to pay them. That’s the law,” she said.

A news conference announcing the lawsuit will be held at the job site at 4 p.m. today.


Photo credit: Law PrieR, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.