As owner of the company, LaHaye was hit with wage violation complaints from Jesus and Jose Ramirez, two employees who filed them on September 5, 2012. Prime Waterproofing was formally served a month later. Shortly after, LaHaye contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the father and son from Norwalk.
"My dad actually just got his work permit," Jose Ramirez tells the Weekly. But as a 19-year-old, he himself was still in the process of applying for a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum. Lawyers with Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, the firm representing the workers, took the issue very seriously, warning the family to leave their house and not to open the door if ICE agents arrived.
The legal team also contacted immigration officials alerting them of the existing labor dispute, calling the action by LaHaye retaliation.
"At the time they filed their wage complaint they were undocumented. The owner was aware of that," says Cliff Smith, member of Chican@s Unidos and Business Manager of Roofers Union Local 36. Jesus Ramirez had been working with the company for years. "LaHaye never had any issue with that until the wage complaint was filed."
Both Jesus and his son say they had their hours reduced over the course of last year and when the stubs still didn't add up for the work being done, they decided to come forward. "When he found out we did a complaint, he fired us," Jose Ramirez says of LaHaye. "He didn't want to give us the check until days later. In order for us to get that check, we signed a paper saying we were quitting ourselves, not being fired." The lawyers didn't consider the paperwork legitimate and said the two were due an explanation.
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As to the facts and figures of the wage complaint, Jose Ramirez was unable to give exact numbers at this point. "I just know, technically each week, the check was supposed to come out to $1,800 and he would only pay us $500," he said in terms of a job last year at Poly High School in Sun Valley. The son claims that prior to that particular work site, there are still more hours and wages unaccounted for.
Organizers of the picket hail today's action as marking the onset of a labor/community alliance that will stand for workers' rights regardless of their immigration status.