Posted: May 24, 2017 11:03 AM EDT
Updated: May 24, 2017 3:37 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- About 100 construction workers helping to build the Omni Hotel downtown walked off the job early Wednesday.
The workers, almost all of whom are Latino immigrants, said they recently discovered they're being paid less than others on the project. They hang and finish drywall and install metal studs, they said.
"We are the only one underpaid on this job," said Marco Cruz, who described himself as a safety worker. "Everyone else is making like $40-$45 an hour and we're doing like $20 an hour. So we feel like we were discriminated by our gender, our race, and that's what we're demanding, just fair salaries."
David Suetholz, a labor attorney helping the workers, said it's their right under federal law to come together and demand a conversation with their employer about their wages.
"They are the only workers -- the only workers -- on this project that are being paid a residential rate," Suetholz said. "Every other classification of workers on this project are being paid commercial rates, and it's my sneaking suspicion it's because they're immigrants."
A spokeswoman for the Omni project did not immediately return a call. Neither did a spokeswoman for Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractor.
Antonio Ramos, a business representative with the Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Local 175, said the workers are employed by subcontractors called PCC and PDC, which WDRB could not immediately verify.
The workers are not organized by the carpenters union, but Ramos said the union supports them.
Suetholz said he assumes the workers have legal status in the United States because employers are required to verify that.
"As an advocate for working people, it’s none of my concern because I want these people to be treated the same way everyone else on this project should be treated," he said.
About half the cost of the $289 million hotel and apartment building is being picked up by city and state taxpayers through a special taxing district.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said the construction workers on the project would be paid the same "prevailing wages" the state has set for publicly funded construction projects.
The Republican-led state legislature repealed the prevailing wage requirements in January, but the new law applies only to projects that were not already in the works.
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