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This episode of Stolen begins in the early morning of August 2020, when a storm system develops on the barren plains of the Nebraska and South Dakota border.
Known as a Derecho, Spanish for straight, these type’s of storms are powerful, fast-moving systems that can generate hurricane force winds, and create tornados, heavy rains, and flash flooding.
For two days the derecho battered the mid-west and caused an estimated 7.5 billion dollars in damage.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa was one of the hardest hit areas.
There the storm caused power outages, gas leaks and extensive wind and water damage to residences, buildings, and schools.
Among the many businesses that suffered significant damage was a senior living community just a few miles from downtown called Cottage Grove Place.
Later that same year, in October, 6 Latino workers loaded into pickup trucks and began the 1000-mile drive f rom Houston, Texas to Cedar Rapids.
They had been hired by a labor broker named Pablo Ramirez to work on the retirement community.
Pablo, was subcontracted by Blusky, a restoration and repair company based out of Denver, Colorado to supply the manpower to do the repairs.
Hired on as carpenters and laborers, the out of state workers agreed to be paid a flat wage that depended on their experience.
It ranged somewhere between $100 to $250 dollars a day.
Additionally, Pablo promised to pay his workers weekly, reimburse their travel expenses and arrange for their lodging while working in Iowa.
It sounded like a sweet deal and as the crew headed north, their spirits were high.
Steady work and a place to stay. What could be better?
Little did they know as they began their long drive north they were headed into a Derecho all their own.
Today we investigate just what went wrong in Cedar Rapids
and how the 6 Blusky employees from Texas found themselves without food, lodging or even the money to get home.
To help me tell this story I spoke with Royce Peterson the carpenter’s union, lead business representative in Eastern Iowa.
Joining us on the call were Public Affairs Director Richard Kajayski and Burt Johnson, General Counsel from the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
The Show Notes
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