On Friday January 27th, HISD parents and community activists held food sales in three different HISD schools to raise awareness about wage theft in HISD construction projects and to help two workers who had been affected by this crime. One of the workers, Marvin Mundo, helped renovate Jane long Middle School in the Gulfton area of Houston. At the last school Board hearing, Marvin testified that he had gone without pay. Marvin has spent weeks without a paycheck and is still owed thousands of dollars from LawMan Construction, a subcontractor of Fort. Bend Mechanical. Fort Bend Mechanical is owned by the Medford family who are under the spotlight for campaign contributions to the HISD board.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) spends hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to rebuild and renovate crumbling HISD schools but some contractors are stiffing their workers. Activists, parents, and students demanded that HISD stop wage theft in the HISD construction program, “because our schools should be a place of fairness and a place to learn right and wrong”.
“The main reason I work so hard is to provide for my family and give my daughter what she needs. The first thing I had hoped to do, was buy my daughter a laptop for school.” Because of his missing paychecks, Marvin had not been able to purchase one for her. Marvin testified to that fact to the board of trustees. HISD held meetings with Marvin, and a second worker, Marciano Cruz who is also owed thousands from Law Man Construction last week, but were unsuccessful in getting a resolution to the problem.
The day began early when parents, activists, and workers held food sales at Jane Long Middle School (where both Marvin and Marciano worked) and Burnett Elementary. They also collected signatures from concerned parents calling on HISD to adopt a code of ethics for its construction bidding process.
That same afternoon, TOP parents and members of HIWJ and Good Jobs=Great Houston staged a news conference at the doors of HISD’s Annual Board Retreat. As the board members dined upstairs at the Trevisio restaurant, parents presented them with with an -F in Ethics, and asked them to finally pass a code of ethics that outs an end to wage theft in schools and limits funds from contractors and vendors seeking to do business with the district.
“Wage theft steals from our communities all over the city, it is outrageous that it happens in our schools. As a parent, finding out that HISD can’t get their contractors to follow basic laws to pay workers, it makes me concerned there’s not enough oversight in the whole HISD construction process” said Claudia Rios, mother of students Garden Villas Elementary and Eastwood Academy and a member of the Texas Organizing Project
However, in the middle of the press conference, the group was joined by HISD Board Member Juliet Stipeche, who offered hopeful words of support. “I think many things will change in regards to how we deal with construction contractors in HISD,” said Stipeche. She also presented Marvin with a check for $1,500 made out to the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center. $1,500 was the amount she received as a campaign donation from Fort Bend Mechanical, the contractor in charge of the construction projects in question and responsible for hiring Marvin and Marciano’s employer, Law Man Construction.
“‘We want to thank Ms. Stipeche for her support and contribution to the Worker Center,” said Jose Eduardo Sanchez, campaign organizer with HIWJ. “We will continue to fight to not only get Marvin and Marciano the wages they worked hard for, but also to ensure that this type of labor abuse does not continue in HISD projects or in our city.”
To conclude the press conference, parents presented Marvin with a new laptop computer for his two young daughters and thanked him for his work renovating their kids schools. The Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center will continue to work with Marvin and Marciano to ensure that they receive their due compensation, and continue holding employers and other stakeholders accountable to our working families.
Call Fort Bend Mechanical and Law Man Construction and ask them to do the right thing and make sure Marvin and Marciano are paid!!Fort Bend Mechanical: Pete Medford, 281-403-4822Law Man Construction: Ricky Peters, 832-567-0860