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    HomeNewsWorkers Protest Subcontractor at Rick Caruso’s Americana at Brand Shopping Mall

    Workers Protest Subcontractor at Rick Caruso’s Americana at Brand Shopping Mall

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    On a recent Thursday at noon at the Americana at Brand shopping mall in Glendale, chants of “Rats go home!” drown out a piped in Paul Simon tune as several dozen union staffers from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters picket the construction site, handing out flyers and AirDropping them into the iPhones of passing shoppers.

    Fullerton Pacific Interiors, a subcontractor currently doing carpentry work at the Americana’s soon-to-be-opened Yves Saint Laurent store, was cited by the California state labor commissioner in 2018 for bilking workers out of $1.9 million in wages and overtime pay from 2014 to 2016.
     


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    The state has ordered Fullerton Pacific to repay the workers, but the company declared bankruptcy last year after state officials seized its bank accounts to recoup the money.

    The union is protesting because “We have a contractor that is the bottom of the barrel,” said Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters union representative George Bocanegra.

    The Americana is owned by Rick Caruso, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles. Caruso’s campaign website, citing 2021 figures, notes it would take pay of about $38 per hour for a worker to afford the $2,000 per month average rent in Los Angeles.

    A Fullerton Pacific worker at the Americana, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said he has worked for the company for four years and earns $24 an hour as a framer, with no medical benefits.

    “We would like [Caruso] to get rid of Fullerton Pacific, which is a cheating contractor and doesn’t deserve to work on his property or anywhere,” said Bocanegra.

    Fullerton Pacific has had several brushes with the law. Its founders, Alberto and Mirella Mordoki, were convicted of workers compensation fraud in 2009 when they operated as AMD Construction. Their contractor’s license was revoked then and the company was barred from public works projects for three years. Now, the Mordokis and their two adult children, Jacqueline Mordoki and Charlie Chavez Mordoki, who are listed as company principals, are currently on bail and awaiting trial in Orange County Superior Court for workers compensation fraud and evading state taxes.

    Capital & Main called Fullerton Pacific for comment, but a man who answered the phone at the company refused to identify himself or answer questions, saying only, “You’re wasting your time and mine. Don’t call here again.”

    “You would think a general contractor or owner wouldn’t hire a subcontractor that’s bankrupt,” said David Kersh, who directs the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee, a labor-management organization that monitors construction projects in the Southwestern U.S. to ensure compliance with labor laws. ”This defies my thought process.”

    Massachusetts-based general contractor Hirsch Construction, which hired Fullerton Pacific, didn’t return repeated phone calls.

    Bocanegra recalled that when his union notified Caruso company senior vice president of construction Tom Veje of Fullerton Pacific’s track record, he said, “Oh my god, I had no idea.”

    Veje said he could not comment. Caruso company public relations manager Gabby Batto didn’t return phone calls.

    Cliff Goldstein, founder and managing partner of GPI, a West L.A.-based development firm, said, “You would hope a landlord would try to work with a tenant or contractor to look for alternatives because there’s no landlord that I know of that would feel good about having such a subcontractor.”

    The Caruso company and general contractor Hirsch Construction did take initial steps to address the union’s concerns. A Hirsch Construction supervisor on site at the Americana, who asked not to be named, said the company invited new union-approved subcontractors to bid to finish the job. But only one responded with a bid, which  Hirsch rejected as too high, and Fullerton Pacific currently remains on the job.

    Fullerton Pacific’s former workers who were cheated out of wages and overtime pay will likely never recover the money owed them. Under the bankruptcy proceeding, the state is set to collect $143,000 by the end of 2026 on their behalf  – less than 10% of the stolen wages the company was ordered to repay.

    The Contractors/Carpenters Cooperation Committee’s David Kersh said it was “galling” that the company continues to work on projects like the one at the Americana at Brand.

    “I think there’s a responsibility to make sure the contractors who are building our public facilities, stores, malls and housing are responsible contractors that play by the rules and pay good wages and treat workers with dignity and respect as opposed to contractors that are [violating] the law and are keeping good contractors from working on projects,” Kersh said.

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