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Extorted, Detained and Deported

February 03, 2014 (1 min read)

"According to the Labor Department reports, Barreno was one of a dozen undocumented workers who had to pay fees just to begin work. The money was initially paid to Calix, who is a Honduran national, and then distributed in varying amounts between Calix, Ft. Pierce human services manager Mike Allen and another manager named Tom McMahon.

But the work initiation fee—which is illegal—wasn’t the only way that Waste Pro was profiting off of undocumented workers. For years, the corporation ran different schemes to steal worker’s wages. Barreno, for example, was made to work about 55 to 60 hours per week, but was never paid any overtime. In fact, the Labor Department’s investigation indicates he was only paid $95 a day.

The documents also detail how Waste Pro workers were sometimes made to work two weeks on the job and two weeks off, and were also instructed to sign time cards for one another, cash the checks, and then surrender that money to Calix, who would then hand it over to Rosie Demelo, a Waste Pro human resources clerk. (Calix’s, Allen’s, McMahon’s and Demelo’s whereabouts are unknown to Colorlines.)

The Department of Labor documents indicate that this practice was changed and that workers were made to attend meetings every two weeks. They were required to pay Demelo between $50 to $100, which accounted for more than 10 percent of some workers’ already meager salaries. Some workers were fired for taking a sick day and to come back to the job they would have to pay initiation fees again.

Reading through the Department of Labor’s explanations of Waste Pro’s criminal acts, it’s clear that the Ft. Pierce’s branch’s exploitation of its employees wasn’t the work of one bad apple, but instead a structural practice implemented and maintained by various managers and supervisors. Undocumented workers were berated and constantly threatened with deportation if they didn’t pay the kickbacks demanded of them." - Aura Bogado, Feb. 3, 2014.