Fresno Unified sides with workers in labor fight with its largest construction contractor

A labor dispute involving the district’s top contractor has attracted input from California’s third-largest school district.

Fresno Unified School District is throwing a bit of shade at its largest contractor in a wage theft claim dating back to 2018. 

The district sent a letter to the state Department of Industrial Relations on Monday supporting the workers who filed the claim worth nearly $800,000. 


The backstory: Six years ago 22 construction workers were not paid for their work by subcontractor Gene Garcia Construction on Slater Elementary School. Davis Moreno Construction was the general contractor on the project. 

  • David Rivas with the Nor Cal Carpenters Union told GV Wire last month that Gene Garcia Construction – which has since closed down – hired workers who do not normally work prevailing wage jobs. 
  • The workers went unpaid by the subcontractor, leading the union to meet with the workers, Fresno Unified and Davis Moreno Construction. The workers received checks after the meeting that only covered one of the eight weeks they worked on the job. 
  • In July 2022, the state issued a $782,000 civil wage and penalty assessment against Davis Moreno construction for the unpaid wages, which remains outstanding because the company requested a review of the case. The parties have agreed to mediation to settle the dispute. 

The big picture: FUSD lawyer Bryan Martin penned a letter to the Labor Commissioner saying the district’s Board of Education supports the workers, requesting that they are made whole for any losses that they have sustained. 

  • “As a matter of general policy and practice, the District and Governing Board of Education support the fair, reasonable and timely payment to all individuals providing services to the District, either directly or through a contracted vendor and appreciate your efforts to that end,” Martin wrote. 

Go deeper: This is the latest issue to arise between FUSD and Davis Moreno Construction, which is the district’s largest contractor, having been awarded nearly $225 million in contracts since 2015, including nearly $60 million since the penalty in July 2022. 

  • Davis Moreno is currently locked in a lawsuit against the district over FUSD’s use of the old lease-leaseback system to award a $37.6 million contract to Harris Construction for Gaston middle School. 
  • Although Davis Moreno is suing Harris Construction and Fresno Unified over the 2011 project, company president Stephen Davis has asked the district to cooperate and assist him in the lawsuit. FUSD did not comply with Davis’ request, and closing arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled for July.  
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