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Protesters accuse O'Hara townhouse developer of 'wage theft'

Tony LaRussa
| Saturday, June 9, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Dozens of people rallied near a luxury townhouse project in O'Hara on Saturday, June 9, 2018, claiming the project's developer failed to pay immigrants who performed roofing work there.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
Dozens of people rallied near a luxury townhouse project in O'Hara on Saturday, June 9, 2018, claiming the project's developer failed to pay immigrants who performed roofing work there.
Protesters rally near Chapel Harbor at the Water off Old Freeport Road in O'Hara on Saturday, June 9, 2018. They allege that the condominium developer committed wage theft by failing to pay construction workers.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
Protesters rally near Chapel Harbor at the Water off Old Freeport Road in O'Hara on Saturday, June 9, 2018. They allege that the condominium developer committed wage theft by failing to pay construction workers.
Emilio, a 38-year-old native of Guatamala, is one of five roofers claiming the developer of Chapel Harbor at the Water in O'Hara Township failed to pay him for the work he did on the project. He addressed supporters at a rally near the development on Saturday, June 9, 2018.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
Emilio, a 38-year-old native of Guatamala, is one of five roofers claiming the developer of Chapel Harbor at the Water in O'Hara Township failed to pay him for the work he did on the project. He addressed supporters at a rally near the development on Saturday, June 9, 2018.

Several dozen supporters of a group of immigrant construction workers held a rally near a luxury townhouse development in O'Hara on Saturday, accusing the project's builders of failing to pay the workers.

“We are here on behalf of five people who completed roofing work on the project last year but were never paid,” said Gabriel McMorland, one of the protest organizers. “These people performed dangerous work in the summer heat and then were taken advantage of by not being paid. We've sent letters to the owners that went unanswered. We've contacted the real estate agency selling the homes and were told it is not their responsibility. We believe the failure to pay these workers is wage theft.”

McMorland said the five workers, who are immigrants from Guatemala, are owed about $5,000 for the 10 days of skilled labor they performed on Chapel Harbor at the Water off Old Freeport Road.

The rally, which is a second effort to address the issue, was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Pittsburgh.

The project along the Allegheny River was developed by Pittsburgh-based Stapleton Homes Inc. and is being marketed by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

The contact page on Stapleton's website contains no information about how to reach company officials. Representatives from Howard Hanna did not respond to request for comment.

“We want Stapleton Homes to know that their business model, which is built on cheating working people of their hard-earned wages, is immoral and unacceptable,” said Guillermo Perez of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “It's time they did the right thing and paid these workers.”

Krystle Knight of the Merton Center said the organization has spent months trying to get Stapleton's owners “to take responsibility, but they refuse to pay these workers.”

“The workers who provided many hours of labor improved the value of this luxury waterfront property and take pride in the arduous work they do to provide for their families,” she said. “It is time we show these luxury real estate developers that their poor corporate citizenship is not just bad for business, it's bad for the community and the workers.”

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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