A dispute between an Indiana subcontractor and Durham workers on a downtown hotel project has gone public.
For about two weeks, Isaac Perez and others have held neon signs in front of the 143-suite Marriott Residence Inn, which opened July 20. The signs say “A crime is being committed” and “Residence Inn promotes wage theft. “
“We are protesting here to let people know that we need justice, we need help,” said Perez, 38, who stood outside the hotel last week with his wife and six children and others. “I don’t want nothing free. I just want my money. “
But representatives of SLP Enterprises, the Griffith, Indiana, subcontractor that Perez and at least two others contend didn’t pay them, said Perez and others didn’t return to the job to finish mistakes or complete the work. Now, representatives said, Perez is organizing the protests to leverage more money.
“They are basically asking us to pay them money to leave us alone,” said Robert Sanchez, SLP Enterprises’ project manager. “That’s not right.”
While the hotel has the Marriott name, it is a franchise operated by Raleigh-based Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co.
In general, on such developments a general contractor oversees the project and subcontracts mechanical, electrical, plumbing and painting work
“This dispute is between one of our general contractor’s subcontractors and their second-tier subcontractors,” wrote Carl Hren, Concord Hospitality’s vice president of Construction and Capital Assets, in an email. “We’ve been in touch with our general contractor, asking them to work to resolve this unfortunate situation.”
A representative of the Raleigh-based general contractor Davidson and Jones Construction, did not return a phone call by deadline for this story.
The dispute is between subcontractor, SLP Enterprises, and those it hired to do the work. SLP was responsible for painting, hanging drywall, vinyl wall covering and acoustic ceiling tiles.
SLP Enterprises President Rob Salvador said the dispute is with three people who worked on the job.
Perez said he and about nine others have turned to protesting with their families in an effort to collect about $200,000 on work they did at the hotel for SLP Enterprises. Perez said SLP initially paid well, $4 a yard, for him and his employees to hang wallpaper and vinyl at the hotel in Durham and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But as the project progressed, payments decreased and then dwindled down to nothing.
Perez said he was paid about $30,000, but is owed another $30,000. When he asked for his money, he said Sanchez replied that he needed to fix flaws that Perez said other workers caused while putting in furniture, fixtures and other equipment.
Perez said he told Sanchez that he would do the work but needed to paid for fixing others’ nicks.
Marino Velsquez, 36, of Durham said he was paid about $12,000 but is owed about $10,000 more for work he did at the Durham Residence Inn for SLP Enterprises hanging metal frames. When Velsquez went to collect his money, he said he was also told that his work wasn’t adequate.
Rosaria Rodriguez, 22, of Durham, and her brother provided painting. Rodriguez said SLP Enterprises paid her about $60,000 but owes another $67,000.
However, Sanchez said Perez had two weeks to finish his project, including flaws identified by the general contractor, but he didn’t show up.
“He is correct there was damage that the furniture people made, but if he would have finished his job before they got there, then all of us, including myself, would have got paid to fix that stuff,” he said.
Since he did not finish the job, the owner could then say it is unclear what was caused by the furniture people and equipment and what was left undone.
Sanchez said Velsquez’s metal framing and the related work was done incorrectly, had to be torn down and redone.
Salvador said Rodriguez’s brother left in the middle of the project, and she continued to work but wanted to get paid for areas that she had to redo because they were painted the wrong color and other mistakes. Rodriguez also didn’t complete the work, he said.
Sanchez said he paid nearly $30,000 to another company to come and fix their mistakes.
Perez said he got the job after he approached the Residence Inn and offered to do the wallpaper work. After hanging wallpaper in two rooms, he was given additional work at a hotel in Pittsburgh and additional work in Durham.
Cindy Schulz, owner of Schulz Iron Works in Raleigh and president of the American Subcontractors Association of the Carolinas, said such arrangements sound very “loose” to her.
In general, companies and workers should do their homework before agreeing to hire them or do work.
“It’s good to know who you are working for and who you are working with,” she said. “It does not matter which side of the fence you are on, there needs to be a level of trust there.”