Albino Balderas went to work on a Jonesboro, Arkansas hospital construction project in January 2012 for Lucas Enterprises, one of Murray Drywall's labor brokers. Even though he was paid by Lucas Enterprises, Balderas says his work was directed by Murray Drywall supervisors. Lucas Enterprises failed to deduct any tax withholdings from Balderas's paycheck. In addition, Balderas never received any overtime pay, even when he worked more than forty hours in a week. Balderas claims that when he complained about Lucas Enterprises' failure to make tax withholdings and pay overtime, he was told to shut his mouth about it or he would be fired.

Balderas was a plaintiff in a federal class-action lawsuit against Murray Drywall and Lucas Enterprises for unpaid overtime. Click here to view the Amended Complaint filed in the lawsuit. On April 18, 2014, the presiding judge in the lawsuit approved a settlement that requires Murray Drywall to pay approximately $115,000 in damages and plaintiffs' attorney fees. (Venegas v. Murray Drywall and Insulation of Texas, Inc., Case No. 3:13CV00036 (E.D. Ark.)).

Contractor Profile

Murray Drywall and Insulation of Texas, Inc.

Albino Balderas was born in Mexico, but he has been residing legally in the United States for more than a decade. He came to the United States in 2002, seeking a better life for his family. He wanted to provide the kind of future for his children that seemed elusive in Mexico. He came to this country with little more than his carpentry tools and the change in his pockets. He was chasing the American dream. "It hasn't been easy," says Albino, who speaks fluent English. "As long as I have been in this country, I've worked hard to support my family, but too many times work has been difficult to find, especially since the recession began."

That's why, in January of 2012, Albino was so excited to hear of a construction project in Jonesboro, Arkansas, just two hours from his home. A friend gave him the number of a man named Ralfi Sols. Ralfi was hiring framers and drywall installers for the Northeast Arkansas Baptist Memorial Hospital construction project. Albino called Ralfi and they agreed to meet at Ralfi's hotel room in Jonesboro the following Sunday. There Albino gave him copies of his driver's license and Green Card with the understanding that when he passed a federal E-Verify check he could start work the following Tuesday.

When Albino first arrived on the project, Ralfi took him to a job trailer occupied by a contractor called Murray Drywall. There, a Murray Drywall supervisor took copies of Albino's driver's license and Green Card and gave him a Murray Drywall hard hat to wear. "When I showed up to the project my first day, that was the first time I heard of Murray Drywall," says Albino. "I thought that's who I was going to work for."

But on payday, Albino was surprised to receive what looked like a personal check from Lucas Enterprises, a company he had never heard of. No tax withholdings had been made and there was no check stub to indicate the number of hours worked. The incident gave him a sinking feeling that something wasn't right.

"I never received any overtime pay even though we were working more than forty hours a week," says Albino. "We were working for Murray Drywall. They would tell us what to do, but we were being paid by a company we'd never heard of. No taxes were deducted from our pay and I complained about that and the overtime pay, but when I was told to shut my mouth about it or I would be fired, I didn't have a choice but to endure it because I have a family to support."

Albino was trapped in a situation many Latino carpenters find themselves in today: He was working for a labor broker.

Albino is but one of many workers we have talked to from six Murray Drywall projects over the last two years. These jobsites were in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas. Murray Drywall does not utilize just one labor broker; it contracts with several of them. On all projects workers have told us of Murray Drywall's use of labor brokers, and of problems associated with those labor brokers.

Here are a few examples of problems that have been reported to us about Murray Drywall's labor brokers' practices:

  • Treating workers like independent contractors (instead of employees) to avoid having to make tax withholdings or paying into the unemployment insurance system.
  • Paying workers in cash
  • Denying federally required overtime compensation to workers who work more than 40 hours in a workweek. On April 18, 2014, the presiding judge in a federal class-action lawsuit brought against Murray Drywall approved a settlement that requires Murray Drywall to pay approximately $115,000 in damages and plaintiffs' attorney fees. (Venegas v. Murray Drywall and Insulation of Texas, Inc., Case No. 3:13CV00036 (E.D. Ark.)). The lawsuit was brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act by several workers who were underpaid on Murray Drywall projects.
  • Firing employees for exercising their federally-guaranteed labor law rights, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. (See the notices required to be posted by Murray Drywall and two of its labor brokers pursuant to a settlement agreement reached with the National Labor Relations Board)
  • Verbal abuse, including racial epithets, directed at workers by supervisors
  • Deplorable living conditions for workers
  • Use of foreign workers through the H2B visa program during a period of high unemployment in the United States
  • Failure to properly investigate workers' identities and whether they are authorized to work at a U.S. military installation
  • Increased risk of heat stress for workers due to a lack of drinking water
  • Some of the government agencies to which Murray Drywall and its labor brokers have been referred for investigation are:
    • U.S. Department of Labor
    • National Labor Relations Board
    • Internal Revenue Service
    • Department of Defense
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    • Kansas Department of Labor
    • Kansas Department of Revenue

For more information about Murray Drywall and its labor brokers, you can review our Truth Packet, which includes documentation about some of the abuses cited above. Murray Drywall is well aware of the sorts of abuses being perpetrated on its jobsites. We know this because we have sent letters to its owners in which we describe and document the problems. In addition, we have sent similar correspondence to Murray Drywall's customers, which are typically hospitals and other medical facilities. Despite our entreaties, Murray Drywall continues to turn a blind eye to worker abuse on its projects. And Murray Drywall continues to turn to the shadowy underworld of labor brokers to supply it with its workforce.

We have launched a multifaceted public relations campaign to raise awareness about Murray Drywall and other contractors who make a practice of utilizing labor brokers. Our campaign includes displaying high-visibility banners and distributing handbills around the project owner's premises. We hope that our efforts will help to shine a spotlight on the unlawful and questionable practices in which many labor brokers are engaged. Perhaps by stirring public outrage about these practices, we can pressure contractors like Murray Drywall to effectuate positive change in the construction industry.