Justice for Roofers

Enriquez PicFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2002

Felizardo Enriquez Shares the Story of His Struggle with Capitol Hill Audience

The suburban housing developments in Tucson, Ariz., built by Pulte Homes have soothing, alluring names that evoke sounds of the desert Southwest—"Canción De La Luna," (Song of the Moon) and "Serenata," the Spanish word for "serenade."

But the roofers who help build those homes are not singing any happy melodies. Employed by Pulte subcontractor Metric Roofing, the workers have been trying to win a voice on the job only to be met with brutal harassment.

Like many of his coworkers, Felizardo Enriquez says he’s faced many injustices on the job. Often drinking water is not provided even in the scorching Arizona summers. Metric Roofing workers—most of them recent Latino immigrants—labor under poor working conditions, don’t get overtime or sick pay, lack affordable health insurance, worry about workplace safety and suffer discrimination. Metric pays the workers based on the size of the roofs onto which they load tile. Often the company says that the roofs are smaller than they actually are, cheating the workers.

"They are stealing money from us," says Enriquez, one of several workers speaking at a June 20 news conference on Capitol Hill as other activists prepared to testify at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the obstacles workers face when they try to form unions. The hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), was the first such hearing on workers’ rights in 14 years.

Metric roofers have sought many avenues to address their concerns. Enriquez and other workers have met directly with Pulte’s executive officers and board members as well as other housing developers to discuss their issues. They filed a class-action lawsuit against Metric alleging the company and its subsidiaries failed to pay workers for all the work they performed.

Workers who have spoken up against these injustices have faced retaliation, including coercion, threats and discrimination. Some workers have been dismissed for supporting a union. "The company is fighting us very hard, firing workers and reducing our hours," Elizardo says. A supervisor attacked one worker in Phoenix, he adds.

"They abuse us verbally and physically and threaten us," says Elizardo. "That’s why we want a contract with a union."

"We’re not sure when we’re going to win, but we are not going to stop until we do," he says.


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