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Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 8:19am
El Paso — Wage theft, it's a problem that is not only occurring in El Paso, it's an epidemic. All this according to a local group who is working with employess who are not at least minimum wage.
Juan Carlos Casteneda was a construction worker here in El Paso, but says he was fired after asking his employer a simple question.
"I talked to him and I asked him why he didn't pay me. And then I was fired," Casteneda said.
Elena Arrevalo also says she was fired from her job at a dry cleaners after asking why she wasn't paid.
"I was threatened. They said they were going to call the police, or they would call immigration," Arrevalo told us.
Casteneda's and Arrevalo's stories are unfortunately very familiar here in Texas and both are seeking help with the Labor Justice Committee.
"The Labor Justice Committee was started to try and fight this epidemic of unpaid wages. Wage theft we call it," Shalini Thomas, a member of the Labor Justice Committee said.
The group is working with Arrevalo and Castenda. But so far, they say, neither of their former employers are working with them.
"We worked hard for him. Monday through Friday, sometimes Saturday. And you paid us half," Casteneda claimed.
Casteneda says he worked for a construction company here in El Paso, a sector which is riddled with many problems here in Texas.
"Texas is the most deadly state for construction workers," according to Thomas.
Thomas cited a recent study out of the University of Texas, at Austin. The study claims more than 40 percent of construction workers were found to be victims of payroll fraud and were misclassified as independent contractors.
"Texas is the only state that does not mandate workers compensation and because of that we have almost an average of one worker death a day," Thomas told us.
To beat these statistics the group is working with all workers who feel they are not getting paid fairly.
"The only way to stop that situation is you come forward, you talk to us about what's going on, and we do everything we can to make sure you're getting a fair wage," Thomas said.
More information on the Labor Justice Committee: