More Mexican laborers who helped prepare Rivian’s electric vehicle plant for production will finally receive overtime pay that they were owed but never received.
On Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced a settlement with two Chinese and Florida-based companies for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages. It is similar in scope to Raoul’s December agreement, which involved three companies and lost wages.
The agreement reached on Tuesday provides for $315,000 in overtime wages and penalties for 59 workers.
“Any company doing business in our state must follow Illinois laws that require workers to be fairly compensated for the time they work,” Raoul said in a statement. “This incident occurred outside of Rivian’s direct supervision, as well as our ethical standards, practices, and policies.” We will continue to work to ensure that everyone who works in a Rivian facility is treated respectfully and fairly compensated.”
WGLT asked Alvar Ayala, director of the Illinois Attorney General’s Workplace Rights Bureau, if Rivian is to blame for what happened.
“We went after the entities we felt we could make the strongest case against based on our investigation.” “Of course, any employer should try to hire contractors who will follow the law,” Ayala said. “We went after the entities that we believed, based on our investigation, had the best case and were responsible for the violation.”According to the attorney general’s office, three companies were allegedly involved in the events that led to the settlement on Tuesday. Rivian hired China-based MINO to build assembly lines. MINO subcontracted some of the work to BIW Automotive Solution Inc. in Florida. According to the attorney general, BIW then subcontracted the work to SDS in Mexico.
According to the attorney general, the 59 workers hired through that “elaborate subcontracting arrangement” routinely worked 60 to 80 hours per week. Overtime pay in Illinois is 150% of regular hourly wages for each hour worked in excess of 40 in a week. According to the attorney general, SDS employees did not receive the required overtime pay. The attorney general claimed in a complaint filed Tuesday that SDS and its president, David Semmelweis, paid “the employees hourly wages of between $11 and $15 for each hour of work, regardless of how many hours they worked in a given workweek.” According to the complaint, SDS also paid a daily stipend of between $30 and $35 for each day worked, as well as free lodging at hotels and apartments near the Rivian plant. The 59 affected workers are distinct from the 54 involved in the December settlement, which resulted in $390,000 in back wages and penalties. In both cases, MINO was a contractor. “Fortunately, our office has Spanish-speaking attorneys, including myself,” Ayala said. “Normally, I’d say it would be difficult to build trust and find workers.” We were able to do so because we had the necessary resources. It probably also helped that these people all worked together at the end of the day. And when you get a large sum of money for one group of workers, and if they know workers on the other side, it helps our credibility. “MINO has agreed to pay $170,000 in owed overtime wages and penalties under a consent decree filed on Tuesday, and BIW will pay an additional $145,000. The attorney general stated that SDS and Semmelweis have “refused to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation or engage in settlement discussions.”They are facing a new lawsuit in this matter. A tip from the IBEW Local 197 electricians union in Bloomington prompted the investigation. Previously, the union expressed concerns about out-of-town and foreign workers at the plant.
The investigation was carried out in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Labor.