Amazon has made headlines recently for fighting its own workers seeking to organize in unions at distribution centers in Alabama and New York. It turns out that workers’ rights aren’t necessarily respected on Amazon construction sites either, as a group women workers learned while finishing drywall at a new Amazon distribution center in Beltsville, Maryland.
A notorious open shop contractor, Avena, had the contract for framing and drywall, but relied on a series of labor brokers to staff the work. The women told IUPAT union organizers and Catholic Labor Network field representative Guillermo Martinez that an Avena drywall superintendent named Brian Bueso had been harassing them and treating them differently than the men. “He would follow everything that I would do and would always be behind me,” explained one of the finishers, Maria Sagrario Garcia. “He prohibited us from going to the bathroom.” When the women complained about his behavior to the general contractor, Bueso told their labor broker that he wanted all the women removed from the job.
Consulting with the union, the women learned that they were also victims of extensive wage theft. With the project running behind, they had been working 72-hour weeks for two months – and had never been paid time and a half. The union estimates that the workers are owed more than $50,000 in lost wages.
With help from the IUPAT, the women have filed a wage theft claim with the Maryland Department of Labor – and a sexual discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).