Fidel has worked in construction for 14 years. For 13 of those years he worked long 14-hour days for cash, being paid under the table. That was if he was lucky enough to even be paid.
He recalls many times when he called company contractors who employed him to receive his paycheck only to find their phone number had changed, or was paid only half of the amount originally agreed upon.
Unable to consistently pay the mortgages on houses he owned, Fidel lost his first home, followed by his second home.
“I moved my family from here to there, wandering,” said Fidel. “I had my houses for five years and, suddenly, I had to leave the houses because my employers wouldn’t pay me fairly. They told me that they would pay me but then they disappeared.”
Fidel’s story could have ended in more than financial hardship; unsafe working conditions rendered one of his co-workers injured so severely that they could no longer work.
That’s because Fidel and others worked without any safety protection. He remembers working high on scaffolding without being tied off or hard hats to protect him from falling, and nearly fell from a roof while working. A friend of his, however, was not so fortunate.
Six years ago his friend fell while working in a similar situation to Fidel. He broke his back, instantly becoming paralyzed. His employer, like many involved in payroll fraud, did not provide him with any benefits including health insurance or workers compensation. To this day he still owes the hospital money for his workplace injuries.
Now Fidel is sharing his story in hopes of raising awareness about the hurtful reality of payroll fraud. Carpenters like him should not have to worry about having a roof over their heads, much less falling off of one without any ability to protect their livelihood.
Help put an end to experiences like Fidel’s. Sign our pledge to stop defrauding carpenters of their worker’s rights and dignity.
NOTE: To keep Fidel’s identity confidential, the photo shared with this story is generic.