Details Emerge on ‘Wage Theft’ Accusations at Summit Grove Affordable Housing Project

Workers named at press conference; attorneys accuse subcontractors of demanding kickbacks

Published : Wednesday, December 20, 2017 | 6:38 AM

Attorneys for two Summit Grove construction workers released more details Tuesday regarding their filing of a California Labor and Workforce Development Agency complaint against RAAM Construction, Inc. and Ramari Business Consulting LLC, two sub-contractors on the new Summit Grove affordable housing project.

Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), released the names of the workers making the allegations at a press conference at the site Tuesday morning.

According to attorney Caleb Soto, both Lorenzo Alarcon and Byron Lopez, construction workers at the project at the corner of Summit Avenue and Orange Grove, were subjected to “egregious labor violations” during their time on the job.

Soto alleged that Alarcon and Lopez were misclassified as independent contractors and not RAMM employees, were not paid fully for the work they completed, and were subject to wage theft by not being paid minimum wage. The workers, according to Soto, were also ordered to pay kickbacks to their supervisors, in order to keep their positions.

The accusations were made against the two subcontractors, and not Heritage Housing Partners (HHP), the developers of the project. POP Attorney Dale Gronemeier said Monday that any lawsuit would not be directed at Heritage Housing Partners, adding, “We have no reason to believe that Heritage Housing Partners knew about the wage (violations).”

“A lot of different allegations were made,” said Charles Loveman, Executive Director of HHP, following the press conference.

“But,” he said, “at its core, the allegation that matters is whether wages were taken from these two workers. I know that all parties involved, the workers, the Day Labor Organizing Network, RAMM Construction, and HHP want to get to the bottom of that, and find out if its true or not, so we’re just anxious for that process to start.”

RAAM, one of the two sub-contractors accused of wage theft, was adamant in denying knowledge of any acts of wage theft.

“RAAM is deeply troubled by the allegations that it or its subcontractors engaged in wage theft or committed any other violation of California’s or Pasadena’s labor laws,” said owner Richard Lara, in a statement Monday.

“RAAM is a company that my wife and I started,” Lara continued. “Lisa and I both come from backgrounds that clearly define who we are and how we strive to treat our employees.”

According to Lara, RAAM is currently in the process of investigating the allegations made, but has been “hampered” in its efforts by the two named claimants’ and their lawyers’ failure to cooperate in the investigation by repeatedly refusing to provide documents or any other evidence that supports the claimants’ own statements, or by simply ignoring RAAM’s multiple requests for any such evidence.

Lara said that the workers involved “have also changed their story, and the inconsistencies increase the difficulty of our investigation.”

Concluded Lara, “Despite the roadblocks that the claimants, themselves, have placed before RAAM, we will persevere in our investigation, and if RAAM discovers any actual wrongdoing, we will right those wrongs and hold those responsible accountable. This has been, and will continue to be, RAAM’s consistent position since having first learned about these allegations a relatively short while ago.”