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Did Fresno Unified's Biggest Contractor Not Pay Its Workers? Company Still Gets Millions After Civil Penalty
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By Edward Smith
Published 1 month ago on
April 22, 2024
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22 construction workers say they still haven't been fully paid by Davis Moreno Construction for work they did in 2018 on Fresno Unified School District's Slater Elementary School.

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After nearly six years, 22 construction workers still have not been paid for work they did at Slater Elementary School in 2018, according to a video documentary.

Meanwhile, Davis Moreno Construction — the general contractor overseeing Gene Garcia Construction which allegedly did not pay the wages — continues to be Fresno Unified School District’s biggest recipient of construction dollars.

With subcontractor Gene Garcia Construction now closed, the Department of Industrial Relations in July 2022 issued Davis Moreno a $782,000 civil wage and penalty assessment.

The department said Monday that the assessment remains outstanding as Davis Moreno requested a review of the case. The parties have agreed to mediation, the state said.

Requests for comment from Fresno Unified were not returned before publication of this story and the posting of an edited version of the documentary “Exploited Hands” on GV Wire’s YouTube page.

Click here to watch the full documentary.

An attorney for Stephen Davis, principal for Davis Moreno, said Davis would not comment for this story. Superintendent Bob Nelson did not respond to a call from GV Wire.

“It’s heartbreaking for them,” David Rivas, senior field representative for the Nor Cal  Carpenters Union, said about the workers. “I think their families took it harder, the kids took it harder than anything. The workers kind of like, understand that this is not uncommon.”

Union Official: ‘It Went Bad Really Fast’

A lot of paperwork goes into paying prevailing wage, so when subcontractor Gene Garcia Construction hired workers who don’t normally work at that rate, it threw up red flags for Rivas and the union.

Union officials met with the workers before they started at Slater and let them know what they should be paid, Rivas said.

“We checked in with them periodically throughout the project and it went bad really fast,” Rivas said. Some of the 22 workers — mostly Spanish speaking — received no pay at all, Rivas said.

Rivas said he and the workers met with a Fresno Unified official and a trustee whom Rivas declined to name. The district official called Davis Moreno Construction — the general contractor —about the unpaid wages. The union reported the unpaid wages to the Department on Industrial Relations on behalf of the workers, Rivas said.

After that meeting, workers said they were paid with unofficial checks that did not cover a week of work. In total, the workers did between eight and 10 weeks of work each, according to the video.

“I have the picture of the check they gave me here,” said one worker who was not named in the video. The video provided English subtitles of what the worker said in Spanish. “They supposedly gave me the money they owed me, but it didn’t even cover one week of work.”

Davis Moreno Is Fresno Unified’s Biggest Contractor

Since 2015, Fresno Unified has awarded Davis Moreno $224 million across 24 contracts, according to a list of construction contracts acquired by GV Wire.

After the civil and wage penalty in July 2022, Fresno Unified gave at least four more contracts to Davis Moreno totaling $59.6 million.

Rivas said it is not uncommon for unpaid wages cases to arise, even for institutional builders such as Fresno Unified. In 2023, Rivas said there were about $3 million in unpaid construction wages in Fresno.

While the video doesn’t clarify the immigration status of the workers at Slater Elementary, Rivas said that undocumented workers are vulnerable to wage theft.

And he (Davis Moreno Construction) keeps doing public jobs,” said one of the workers in the documentary. “He keeps working as if nothing had happened. That enrages us.”

Page 1 of Civil Wage and Penalty Assessment Against Gene Garcia Construction/Davis Moreno Construction

Page 1 of Civil Wage and Penalty Assessment Against Gene Garcia Construction/Davis Moreno Construction

Contributed to DocumentCloud by Edward Smith (GV Wire) • View document or read text

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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