|Paso del Norte Labor Justice Committee
Ex-Artisan employees picket, ask for back pay
By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
EL PASO — Former Artisan Hotel employees protested Wednesday in front of the shuttered business, demanding wages they say they are owed.
Antonio Sanchez, the hotel’s former head engineer, and John Kelly, who was the night auditor, said owner Douglas DaSilva owes them $3,000 each. Others who alleged they too are owed money stood in front of the building at 325 N. Kansas in the Downtown.
“I heard from him last week,” Sanchez said. “He said he was coming back to El Paso to pay me my money, but he didn’t. He always says he’s going to pay us, and he doesn’t.”
Loretta Armendariz, who was a cook in the hotel restaurant, said DaSilva’s company owes her about $1,000. Maria Delgado, a former housekeeper and laundry operator at the Artisan, said she is out $500.
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The former employees said DaSilva’s failure to meet payroll obligations created hardships for them and their families. Kelly said the hotel was making money before DaSilva sent the employees home in March. A Feb. 20 check made out to Kelly for $1,007.72 bounced because of insufficient funds. Kelly said it was from DaSilva’s company, 325 Texvada Investments, LLC.
In a telephone interview, DaSilva said he no longer has any control of the Artisan.
“The bankruptcy trustee has taken over the property,” he said.
Chris Benoit, an economic justice lawyer with the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, said 14 former Artisan Hotel employees filed a motion Wednesday in the Nevada Bankruptcy Court, seeking a court order for them to be paid. The claim amounts ranged from $224 to $3,434, plus administrative expenses.
“DaSilva has attempted to utilize the bankruptcy process to steal thousands of dollars from these employees,” Benoit said.
The door to the hotel’s front entrance was open Wednesday, but no one was at the front desk. DaSilva’s company filed a petition for bankruptcy protection in November 2008, before opening the El Paso hotel late last year.
He kept making renovations and booked guests, but the workers alleged that he often failed to pay them or gave them only partial pay.
|Protestan por salarios pendientes ex empleados de hotel Artisan
Julio Antonio Molinet
El Diario de El Paso
Al menos 14 ex empleados del hotel Artisan de El Paso presentaron, ayer, una petición ante el Tribunal de Bancarrota del Estado de Nevada para recuperar salarios pendientes o no remunerados.
Aunque no se han dado a conocer públicamente, se estima que los salarios de los reclamantes corresponden a tarifas que se encuentran por debajo de los 10 dólares la hora.
Sin embargo, fuentes extraoficiales revelaron que las deudas del Artisan, perteneciente a la compañía 325 Texvada Investments, LLC., con sus ex trabajadores, oscilan en rangos que van desde los 10 mil hasta los 200 mil dólares.
La información trascendió durante una protesta protagonizada por parte de los treinta afectados, quienes se congregaron en la puerta principal del hotel, ubicado en la calle Kansas número 325 en la zona centro de la ciudad.
“Demandamos lo que es lo nuestro,” dijo el ex empleado, Antonio Sánchez. Y agregó: “Douglas DaSilva y su compañía ocuparon a docenas de trabajadores y dejaron de pagarles. Haremos todo lo posible para que nos regresen lo que nos corresponde”.
El recurso legal fue interpuesto a través del Proyecto por los Derechos Civiles Paso del Norte (PNCRP, por sus siglas en inglés), institución que ayuda y defiende los derechos de los asalariados en los Estados Unidos.
“Estamos haciendo un reclamo, una petición a la Corte de bancarrota porque no podemos demandar a la compañía, se trata de garantizarle a los empleados sus salarios pendientes”, dijo, el abogado de PNCRP, Christ Benoit. Y agregó: “Los 14 que solicitaron ayuda tienen prioridad porque fueron contratados por DaSilva luego de que el presentara su declaración de insolvencia”. Benoit advirtió que PNCRP está ayudando porque es evidente que han sido violados los derechos de los ex trabajadores.
Para Benoit es evidente que, DaSilva actuó de manera deshonesta. Ello se evidencia en el hecho de que a muchos de sus empleados les pagó con cheques sin fondos, a otros les dejó sin salario de manera sistemática durante 2009 y 2010.
“Yo estuve trabajando más de dos meses sin pago, los primeros cheques si los pude cambiar, pero los tres últimos me la pase batallando, fui a una casa de cambio y luego a otra, y así me la pase”, narró decepcionada, la ex encargad de limpieza, Flor Gallardo.
El Hotel Artisan cerró sus puertas en marzo de 2010 y aunque un tribunal valoró la solicitud de insolvencia de la compañía en abril, investigaciones oficiales revelaron que nadie les explicó a sus trabajadores que debían hacer para recuperar sus sueldos.
Former employees of the Artisan Hotel protest unpaid wages
Julio Antonio Molinet
El Diario de El Paso
At least 14 ex-employees from the Artisan Hotel El Paso presented a motion yesterday in the Federal Bankruptcy Court of Nevada to recover unpaid wages.
Even though it has not been made public, it is estimated that the salaries of the claimants were less than $10/hour. Sources reveal that the debts of the Artisan, which is owned by 325 Texvada Investments, LLC, along with those of the ex-employers, vary between $10,000 and millions of dollars.
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A protest staged by the thirty affected employees took place in front of the main doorway of the Hotel, located at 325 Kansas St. in downtown El Paso. “We are demanding what is ours,” said the ex-employee, Antonio Sánchez, “Douglas DaSilva and his company hired dozens of workers and left them without pay. We will do all we can to make sure that we get what we deserve.”
The legal case is handled by Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project (PCRP), an institution that supports and defends the rights of low-income workers in the United States.
“We are filing this motion in Bankruptcy Court because we cannot sue the company and we want to guarantee that the employees are paid their wages,” said Chris Benoit, an attorney with PCRP, “The 14 employees should have priority in the bankruptcy proceedings because they worked for DaSilva while the company was already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.”
Benoit said that PCRP stepped in because it was evident that the company violated the labor rights of a many former employees.
For Benoit it is evident that DaSilva acted in a dishonest way. Many of the employees were paid with checks that bounced and DaSilva systematically failed to pay all workers during 2009 and 2010.
“I was working more than two months without pay. I could cash some of the first checks I received but the last three checks were a battle. They were rejected for insufficient funds. One of them I barely cashed after several days of banks rejecting it for lack of funds,” said the ex-chief of housecleaning, Flor Gallardo.
The Artisan Hotel closed it doors in March, 2010. Though the court accepted a conversion of the proceedings to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April, official investigations revealed that no one explained this to the wokers who were owed their wages.
|Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project
Fourth annual Fiesta Fronteriza:
Remembering Our Roots, Building Our Future.
The Fiesta Fronteriza will take place on May 7th, 2010 at the El Paso Community College Administrative Services Building. Registration and reception begin at 11:30 a.m.
This year the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project received numerous nominations from the community, from which finalists were selected. The awards will be given to those individuals or organizations who foster equality, secure justice, ensure diversity, and strengthen communities through education, advocacy, and service.
One of the nominees for the Advocacy Award is the now deceased Esther Chavez Cano. Esther dedicated her life to defending women’s rights. To that end, she started Grupo Ocho de Marzo in 1992, which vociferously denounced crimes against women, in part by compiling journalistic information to give homicide victims a face and a name.
In the face of the femicides, Esther started Casa Amiga Crisis Center in 1999, which was the first such center in the city and the entire border region, and was dedicated to providing psychological, medical, and legal help to victims of domestic and sexual violence. She was the executive director of Casa Amiga until her death in 2009.
Jesus B. Ochoa, is also a nominee for the Advocacy Award. He has dedicated his entire professional life to fighting civil rights injustice using the American legal system. He is the principal founder of the Mexican American Bar Association of El Paso, and he and the late Mark Howell founded the El Paso Legal Assistance Society. Because his cases established precedent, their benefit extended to all citizens battling institutionalized oppression.
Leona Ford Washington, a nominee for the Service Award, dedicated her life to serving her community, demonstrated not only by a teaching career that spanned 39 years, but also by her establishment of the McCall Neighborhood Center. She was especially committed to changing the underlying causes of dropouts in our schools, focusing on helping parents, the community and the nation become more involved in the education of our children.
Tickets are $50. Order your tickets today via our secure website.
Please join the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project in paying tribute to these exceptional community members while promoting and providing support for free legal services for the poor.
For more information please call Sandra Arzate at 915-532-3799 ext. 22.