Employees file charge alleging racism, discrimination from Digi-Key project subcontractor
Three current or former employees filed a civil rights charge against the subcontractor managing the Digi-Key Expansion Project in Thief River Falls.
The workers said the subcontractor, Millennium Concrete, discriminates against minorities and immigrants by underpaying them for hours worked and punishing them for speaking to a union organizer. The charge was filed Monday, Sept. 23, with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
“It feels bad because I’ve worked for the company for four years,” said Millennium Concrete employee Franklin Flores, one of the workers who filed a class civil rights charge. “They give preference to the American workers -- better pay, better treatment, everything is better for them than for the Hispanic workers.”
Construction began on the $300 million Digi-Key project, 701 Brooks Ave., in 2017. Union employees protested outside the construction site in June to rally against the alleged worker exploitation.
Digi-Key released a statement following the protest that said it was working with the general contractor to understand the complaint. Union leaders noted their concern was not with Digi-Key, but with the construction companies.
Millennium Concrete is based out of Iowa and subcontracting the concrete work on the project for general contractor McShane Construction, which is an Illinois company.
The employees said that Latino immigrant workers were paid less than native-born coworkers who did the same work “as part of a pattern of discrimination based on race, color and national origin,” according to a press release from the Laborers International Union of North America.
The workers said they were shorted on hours and significantly underpaid for work -- the union estimates some may have received $10,000 less in pay, according to payroll reports.
Employees allegedly said supervisors would verbally abuse them and reassigned them to lower-paying posts if they spoke with union representatives.
One former employee reported he was injured on the job, but not allowed to return to work.
The Digi-Key project is also under investigation by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the press release said.