The Labor Department announced last week that after its investigation into the labor violations, 22 workers were paid $250,000 by Foster City-based Full Power Properties, the Chinese developer of the 650-unit, high-rise Silvery Towers project in San Jose.
Full Power is said to have benefited from work carried out by the crew of Job Torres, who was arrested, according to the department’s press release. The Labor Department said that Torres, who is unlicensed and was doing business as Nobilis Construction, controlled a warehouse where the workers were held in squalid conditions.
The developer also has stumbled into disputes with at least five different subcontractors that claimed Full Power had failed in separate instances to repay the construction companies for labor, materials, or equipment for the Silvery Towers development, according to this news organization’s review of public documents.
Among the subcontractors that Full Power Properties is alleged to not have paid on time: Nobilis Construction, which also was at the center of the labor law violations.
All told, the value of the work and materials claimed by the subcontractors in the mechanic’s liens was an aggregate $1.8 million, Santa Clara County records show. Nobilis Construction filed the largest publicly disclosed claim, a lien that claimed $897,000 in unpaid work.
Typically, when a mechanic’s lien is lodged against a property owner, such a filing indicates a cash squeeze on a project, or that the developer has allowed completed payments to languish for a significant period.
Full Power in May obtained a $160 million loan from China Citic Bank International Limited to finance the construction of the two apartment towers. In 2015, when Full Power Properties bought the Silvery Towers site, the seller of the property, an affiliate of KT Urban, provided $18.4 million in financing to facilitate Full Power’s purchase.
The mechanic’s liens have now been released, including at least one after the receipt of the construction loan.
Last August, more than a dozen immigrant workers who were being held in captivity in a Hayward home were freed by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Federal prosecutors and Hayward police said then that someone named Job Torres Hernandez forced the workers there and at other construction projects around the Bay Area to work without pay. He was indicted on charges of harboring illegal immigrants for commercial advantage or private financial gain.
“Full Power Properties oversaw and approved the work performed by workers provided by unlicensed subcontractor Job Torres, doing business as Nobilis Construction. Full Power approved the work performed by the employees; provided direction and supervision of all the work; and exercised control,” according to information provided by the Labor Department to this new organization. The federal agency added, “As an employer, Full Power agreed to pay the back wages owed to 22 employees.”
This news organization reported that Hernandez and his workers were doing work on the Silvery Towers project in San Jose at the time of his arrest.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will do everything in its power to stop employers who violate the law from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over those who play by the rules,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Susana Blanco, in San Francisco, in a statement about the San Jose case. “This case also represents a major victory in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking.”
The Labor Department didn’t respond Monday to a request for additional comment. Full Power also was contacted, but didn’t respond to a request for a comment.
“We have been concerned about wage theft, not just at Silvery Towers, but at other construction projects in Santa Clara County,” said Ben Field, executive director of the South Labor Council. “This case, unfortunately, is just symptomatic of those problems.”
Concerns about questionable working conditions have emerged as a huge development boom is underway, not just in Silicon Valley, where tech companies have rapidly expanded, but in the East Bay and San Francisco as well.
“There is a perception that because the construction market is so hot, that all the workers are doing well, but as Silvery Towers shows, that is not the case,” Field said. “This is not unique. Even in a heated construction market, wage theft is very common.”