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Capstone Construction Under Labor Investigation

Construction on Capstone’s 13th and Olive student housing project is continuing, but representatives from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters (PNWRCC) say that after complaints from workers employed by multiple contractors, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and other agencies are investigating the project.

“We had a lot of workers come forward complaining about unpaid overtime, checks being withheld, oftentimes for weeks or even a month at a time, and the various sanitary and safety complaints,” PNWRCC spokesperson Ben Basom says. General contractor Construction Enterprises Inc. (CEI) of Franklin, Tenn., is overseeing the project, but Basom says that the ultimate responsibility falls on Capstone as the development owner.

According to Basom, the availability of adequate bathroom facilities was one problem. “The bathtubs in some of the units being used as toilets. People were urinating and defecating inside the bathrooms there,” he says. “People were urinating inside the walls to avoid having to take bathroom breaks and things like that.”

An orange flier posted around downtown asks unhappy workers on the Capstone project to call the local PNWRCC office at 344-5344. The flier asks workers if they were paid in cash, not paid overtime or denied breaks, and says “You may be owed money!”

Capstone’s Eugene spokesperson, Pat Walsh, says, “Until late last week, Capstone and CEI were not aware of the union’s allegations concerning subcontractors working on the site. The union has refused our request to review their report; however, Capstone and CEI do take the allegations seriously.”

PNWRCC has received a lot of verbal complaints from workers who wish to remain anonymous and four or five formal written complaints, Basom says. “Oftentimes these workers work under a culture of fear,” he says.

Basom says that PNWRCC doesn’t have any plans to file a lawsuit and hopes that state agencies and the IRS will sort out financial problems. OSHA fined three subcontractors of the 13th and Olive development $12,130 in August for various safety violations.