Labor Lost

Local immigrant workers left unpaid and abandoned in Alabama

"I guess maybe they're [Hersh/contractors] used to doing that to people and people stay quiet about it because they're scared," Anastasio surmised. "Just three of us decided to look for help."

They talked to Jose Jimenez, president of a recently formed Garland day laborers union, who helped put them in touch with lawyers at the consulate. They were eventually promised legal help.

Jimenez and the other union members started the group late last year for just such an occasion. Jimenez's eventual goal is to establish a center like the ones created nationwide by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, which has helped workers organize to provide legal, educational and health services, as well as set minimum hourly rates for skills such as painting, carpentry and drywall installation.

In February, legal advisors from the consulate visited the Garland center to provide advice. "We decided to visit various sites where immigrants wait for construction work and give them information about their rights," Rea said shortly after the session. "We told them, 'Please, when you get into a truck, note the plate information, get the address of the house.' It's very important, because when they complain and say something happened in North Texas, we can't help them. For their security they have to take certain precautions."

Anastasio and Benitez made sure to get Varela's number and address, but they've repeatedly called his cell phone and knocked on his door in Rowlett to no avail. They're hoping a judge will help them get their money.

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