Written by Morgan Brokob
When Carlos came to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, his first stop was in New Orleans, where he worked for a month on a roofing project. He was never paid for the time and effort he spent on this job. This frustrated him because “a day of work is a day of work.” Feeling as though there was nothing he could do to recuperate his wages, he started traveling across the country, eventually making his way to Denver.
Carlos said he likes living in Denver because there is plenty of work. However, the city’s booming economy and the availability of jobs does not always translate into a good work environment.
He has experienced wage theft several times since coming to Colorado, often involving cases of employers explicitly refusing to give workers the money they were owed. On one of these occasions, Carlos went directly to his employer’s house, where he was told outright that he would not be paid.
Carlos is disillusioned with a system that privileges employers and ignores the concerns of day laborers. When asked how the system could be improved, he mentioned that it’s difficult if you don’t have anyone to rely on and that employers have all the power. He said a day laborer may be resolved to face an employer who did not pay, but that courage vanishes when you are face to face with the person who owes you money. His primary concern is for people to care about the challenges faced by workers like him, but such sympathy is rare since he, like so many other workers, is undocumented.
Carlos is just one of many workers who experience wage theft every day in the metro Denver area. To receive more stories and updates on the Just Wages Project, sign up to receive emails.