'We need to believe them': Construction workers allege wage theft on Vikings Lakes project
Dozens of workers said they worked extensive overtime for two subcontractors on the project but never received compensation for that work.
ST. PAUL — More than two dozen construction workers contracted to work on an apartment building in the Vikings Lakes complex on Thursday, May 5, said they'd had their wages stolen by two subcontractors on the project and urged Minnesota Vikings owners, along with state leaders, to enforce state wage theft laws.
Leaders from North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters on Thursday said they'd received reports from 40 workers about roughly $100,000 in total unpaid overtime payments from Absolute Drywall and Property Maintenance and Construction LLC. Between 2020 and 2021, 25 of the employees worked six or seven days a week on the Eagan mixed-use development project near the Vikings headquarters and practice facilities. And they received no overtime compensation for working 10 to 12 hour days or for working on holidays.
Burt Johnson, general counsel for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, said MV Ventures — the group that hired the contractors and is owned by Zygmunt, Mark and Leonard Wilf, the family that owns the Minnesota Vikings — was aware of prior problems with the contractors but hired them anyway. And he urged the group to make whole the workers that didn't receive their full wages.
“I have never seen more than 25 workers come forward from one project, I’ve never seen that. They need to be believed," Johnson said. "They take great risk when they come forward and talk to the public about what's going on. We need to believe them."
Johnson said the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry was investigating the allegations of wage theft but he and others implored state legislators to create additional protections for workers and to enforce existing law.
Javier Mendez Velasco worked with Property Maintenance and Construction and worked installing siding on the Vikings Lakes project. Velasco said he was routinely asked to work 10 to 12-hour days without additional pay and was worked to a point of exhaustion. He and fellow employees said they weren't aware of their rights and had fears about reporting the working conditions because they faced threats.
"Without the people supporting us, they’re going to keep taking advantage of us," Velasco said. "We need to be valued."
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Vikings didn't immediately respond to a call for comment about the Wilf family's awareness of the possible lost wages.
State Sen. Matt Klein, DFL-Mendota Heights, joined workers and union leaders at the Thursday news conference and afterward said that the state should do more to address cases of wage theft.
“There is no excuse for treating working people like this in our state," Klein said. "Despite our work to address wage theft, it’s clear that it remains a serious issue for workers who are mistreated and exploited. We are much better than that, and we must do more to support our workers.”