Member Profile: Gandhi Merida Rodriguez

My name is Gandhi Merida Rodriguez. I was working with a family member as a rod carrier and rod setter on a major construction project at 8th and Sycamore here downtown.  The boss, Ron Estes, was terrible. He was the owner of R&R Steel.  We had no safety training. We heard from someone on the job that we weren’t being paid the right wages so we found a lawyer to talk to.  I witnessed multiple people get injured on the job and I feared for his own safety.  Ron Estes recruited undocumented immigrants for out of state, provided them with substandard housing, and threatened to “call ICE” on them if they spoke out.  I was not paid for much of my work for Estes.  

Worker Center member Gandhi sitting at a table with US Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh with Worker Center staff member Magda Orlander standing near them
Gandhi meets with US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, 2021

I got support with the help of a union that led us to the worker center. Working with the lawyer and the center we prepared statements for a city investigator.  Edgar. Together found out that $300,000.00 on two different city jobs was being stolen from workers.  

A few of us went on strike to oppose the way we were treated and paid and got fired for the strike, which is illegal. We met with agents at the National Labor Relations Board and won a labor charge with some back pay.   

After we made our complaints we kept working with the lawyers and uncovered a scheme where Ron Estes was pulling workers money out of 401k accounts by forging the names of my co-workers on the 401k paperwork.  We also uncovered that he was submitting false OSHA training records, called OSHA 10 cards, to the general contractor in charge of the job.  Together with an attorney I met with the Office of Inspector General at the federal government.  Eventually this investigation led to criminal charges against the man that runs the company – Ron Estes in a case called United States of America vs. Ron Craig Estes.   

Read a news article about this case.

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