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Calif. Allegedly Ignores Legal Complaint Against State-Funded Worker Center

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California agencies have continued to fund a state-based labor center while allegedly ignoring complaints it violates the law by illegally using unlicensed migrant workers.

The Graton Day Labor Center (GDLC) helps provide temporary workers with jobs, especially for construction-based projects. Local resident Henry Barnard believes the center may be violating the law by using unlicensed contractors. The extent of its violations, including the possible use of illegal immigrants, is unknown because for months state agencies have refused to investigate the center.

“This thing began in May of 2015,” Barnard told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Having spent my life employed in the building trades, I was aware that the GDLC had been operating in violation of state licensing and state insurance law. I began researching particulars.”

The center mostly uses immigrant labor while priding itself on its mission to advance worker dignity and tolerance. Barnard believes state officials and investigators have been pressured into not pursuing an investigation in order to avoid issues with Hispanic voters. When he began looking into the matter, the center was petitioning the state to renew its funding.

“What I found is that the GDLC informs employers of its members that homeowner insurance substitutes workers compensation insurance,” Barnard noted. “I also found that the GDLC was acting, if necessary, as a referral service for unlicensed contractors. Both of these actions are illegal.”

Barnard felt the state should first make sure the center was in no way floating the law before renewing funding. His own initial research allegedly found the center used unlicensed contractors and ignored insurance requirements. He contacted the center directly but was ignored, so he reached out to the Sonoma County Community Development Commission (CDC).

“As Graton had been in violation of its current contractual obligation to break no laws or suffer termination of current funding, I assumed that it would be necessary for the CDC to withhold any further funds until GDLC’s indiscretions were addressed,” Barnard stated. “I was wrong.”

A few days later, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed to a new contract and the center was awarded another $80,000 in funding. Barnard reached out to other agencies in the following months but was again ignored. He eventually made headway when he contact the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). A board representative confirmed Monday the agency is looking into the matter.

“These jobs, if more than $500 in combined labor and material, would require a California contractors’ license,” the CSLB representative told TheDCNF. “In order to resolve this complaint, CSLB requested an in-person meeting with GDLC staff, so we can address these issues with them. At this point CSLB’s goal would be to educate them on California law make sure they’re in compliance.”

Barnard expressed disappointment the CSLB was only planning to educate the center as opposed to investigating it. Nevertheless, it was more progress than he was able to get with other state agencies in the months prior. He demanded the board of supervisors and the CDC explain why they were not investigating the center, but it was to no avail.

“My queries continued to fall on deaf ears,” Barnard stated. “At no time has either agency supplied me with documentation determining that my complaint has no merit. This though I’ve supplied both agencies with statutes, case law and CSLB documentation supporting my claims.”

The worker center and the remaining state agencies did not respond to requests for comment by TheDCNF.

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