For Immediate Release // Please Excuse Cross Posting
Monday, April 5, 2021
Contacts:
Bliss Requa-Trautz, bliss@arribalasvegas.org, 413-539-8217
Salvador G Sarmiento, sgsarmiento@ndlon.org, 202-746-2099

Immigrant Workers and Advocates Call for Federal Whistleblower Protections to Address Employer Retaliation

Former employees request the US Labor Dept. intervene after a federal court finds myriad abuses by painting company Unforgettable Coatings Inc.

Live stream of Event
Photos (credit Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center)

LAS VEGAS, NV — On Monday, April 5th, dozens of workers and worker advocates gathered to protest the rampant abuses of Unforgettable Coatings Inc., and call on the US Department of Labor to intervene. Advocates called on Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and the Biden administration to establish deferred action protections for immigrant whistleblower employees of Unforgettable Coatings. Former workers, the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, NDLON and IUPAT DC16 joined County Commissioner Tick Segerblom outside a worksite where workers hung precariously from swinging scaffolding.

“The workers at Unforgettable Coatings have labored throughout the pandemic, risking their health and safety to bring home food to their families’ tables and keep the economy of Nevada moving forward. But every paycheck, part of their earnings unlawfully stayed in the pockets of their employer. Those who have spoken up have faced threats, broken promises and coercion from their employer,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, director of Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center.

Former employee Christian Cespedes commented “I just want Cory Summerhays to treat every single man in his company like he treats his family members. When they get hurt, to be responsible for it, and not just tell him ‘it’s your fault’ and just own up to his own broken promises.”

Unforgettable Coatings is under investigation by the US Department of Labor in Nevada, and was also investigated in Arizona in 2013. The company has previously been investigated by OSHA for health and safety violations. A district court judge issued a preliminary injunction against the company in April 2020 citing obstruction of justice in addition to overtime violations.

“I was supposedly earning $20/hour in the company, but the check was for $8.25/hour, with a bonus. Sometimes they deducted more, sometimes less, I wasn’t even sure how much I was earning,” explained Jesus, a former Unforgettable Coatings employee.

County Commissioner Tick Segerblom joined in support of workers receiving the pay they are owed, and in support of protections for immigrant workers. “To President Biden and Secretary Walsh, please, give them deferred status, give them deferred protection, because without this, these laws have no meaning. We want these people to have rights, be able to stand up, get their overtime [pay], and not be threatened with firing or deportation,” stated Segerblom.

Eleazar Castellanos, of Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center stated “There must be a point when this dehumanization stops.  And we reaffirm the notion that all workers are essential. That is why we are here.Because we know that the US Department of Labor can reaffirm that all labor is essential – and take action accordingly.”

Savannah Palmira of Local 159 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 16, made clear that the only thing Unforgettable Coatings would be remembered by is its workplace abuse. “And when they finish these towers they will keep painting more and more buildings. The rain will come, and stain these walls. The wind will come and etch at its luster.  And the desert heat will slowly fade its color.  These coatings, these are not what this company will be remembered by. It’s the exploitation, the lies, and the abuse, that will never go away, because that is what makes them unforgettable.”

“Whistleblower protections – in the form of deferred action for immigrant workers – would ensure due process to address these workplace abuses. It would let employers know that workers’ immigration status cannot be weaponized against workers rights,” said Cal Soto, Workers Rights Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). “It’s time for the US Labor Department, under new leadership of Secretary Marty Walsh, to confront that threat head on and send the message that threatening workers, for deportation or otherwise, will not be tolerated,” added Mr. Soto.

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