You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

EXCLUSIVE: Workers say contractor fired them after immigration protest


On Thursday, 40 employees of a Boca Raton construction company skipped work to participate in a national “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

When they returned to their Miami job site Friday, workers say, four were fired — although the employer said the terminations were unrelated to the protest. The other 36 decided to sit out another day to support the fired workers.

READ ALSO: Trump again hires foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago; little change in pay

On Sunday, a dozen of the workers met at the West Palm Beach office of the Laborers International Union of North America to discuss how to protect their jobs and what action they might take against their employer, Orange & Blue Construction Inc.

The episode underscores the simmering tensions in South Florida’s construction industry, which long has relied on foreign labor.

Immigrant workers typically favor lenient policies about who’s allowed to remain in the United States. In something of an ideological mismatch, their bosses often are loyal to the Republican Party, which has engaged in tough talk about immigration policy since the election of President Donald Trump.

Of the 40 workers who stayed off Orange & Blue Construction’s site last week, most are carpenters and laborers from Central America. They said the protest was meant to convey their concerns about the apparently harsher direction of immigration policy.

“Our coworkers are afraid of the police, of being deported,” said one worker, a Honduran immigrant who asked not to be named.

Their bosses at Orange & Blue Construction see the protests as an overreaction.

“People need to understand the government is only targeting people who are criminals,” the company said in an unsigned message sent to workers last week.

Orange & Blue Construction is owned by William Randle Jr. He declined to comment, but his attorney said in a statement that about 30 workers didn’t show up on Thursday.

“None of the workers gave us notification or a reason for their absence,” Randle’s attorney said. “The four O&B employees who were terminated were terminated for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with their absence from work. O&B is very appreciative of the efforts of all our employees and we take pride in providing a great work environment including healthcare and a 401(k) program.”

As his company’s name suggests, Randle is a proud graduate of the University of Florida. Orange & Blue Construction ranks No. 11 on the latest Gator 100 list, which honors fast-growing companies run by UF alumni.

Workers at Sunday’s meeting said they’re building an apartment complex in Miami. They said Orange & Blue Construction pays $18 to $27 an hour — a hefty wage by Central American standards, but below the national average of $28.52 an hour earned by construction workers in January, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The workers at Orange & Blue Construction are not union members, but they met Sunday with labor organizers. Andrei Rolle, president of Laborers International Union Local 1652, told workers to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board — and to understand that the labor market’s supply-and-demand equation is in their favor.

“The reality is there’s a shortage of workers right now,” Rolle said. “They need you.”

Workers complained that Orange & Blue Construction’s has a lax attitude toward safety and paying for on-the-job injuries. Alvaro Hercules, a carpenter from El Salvador, said he was stuck with a $1,500 hospital bill after he broke his finger on the job.

The 17-year-old company has been disciplined just once by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Orange & Blue was ordered to pay $564 in fines for two violations after an inspection in 2009.

Laborers International Union organizer Angel Vallejos acted as translator during Sunday’s meeting, and he indicated that the relationship between the company and its workers was strained but not beyond repair.

“A win would be if everybody got their jobs back,” Vallejos said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Spanish River High theater students bring ‘Rock of Ages’ to stage
Spanish River High theater students bring ‘Rock of Ages’ to stage

SPANISH RIVER HIGH The Theater Arts Department presents “Rock of Ages” at 7 p.m. April 21 and 22, with a 2 p.m. show on April 23. For information or to buy tickets, visit www.spanishrivertheater.org CHRISTA MCAULIFFE MIDDLE The Chorus will present a spring musical program at 6 p.m. today at the school, 6500 Le Chalet Blvd., Boynton Beach...
Man cooking turkey in charcoal pit accuses HOA board member of assault

PALM BEACH GARDENS POLICE THEFT After chatting with a security officer, a man walked over to a nearby sunglasses display rack, selected two pairs and strolled out of the store in the 3100 block of PGA Boulevard. A review of the shopping center’s surveillance showed the man exiting the facility, getting into a car and driving away. Though the...
Mother-daughter team the faces behind Martin County Rocks
Mother-daughter team the faces behind Martin County Rocks

MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS: Cindy Wiley-Rhude, 44; Kaitlynn Byrne, 23 A little paint and a tiny rock has gone a lot further than Cindy Wiley-Rhude and her daughter Kaitlynn Byrne could have ever dreamed. The mother-daughter duo started painting and hiding rocks shortly after Wiley-Rhude’s sisters visited for Thanksgiving last year. While visiting, Wiley-Rhude&rsquo...
Sports & Recreation
Sports & Recreation

United Way of Martin County’s Character Counts! program will hold its 15th annual Tee It Up for Character Golf Tournament at the Monarch Country Club in Palm City on April 28. The event will raise funds to create character-building programs in the county’s schools and the community. 1 p.m. shotgun start, $150 fee includes dinner buffet...
Grow your own paleo grains
Grow your own paleo grains

It may be the oldest cultivated grain in the Western Hemisphere. It predates maize by centuries. When the first corn was still weedy grass called teosinte in southern Mexico, the people of the region were growing an earlier grain. It’s the sophisticated ancestor of our garden pig weed, which has carried many settlers through rough times with...
More Stories