This story has been updated with a statement from Lyman Companies
New information has surfaced that the single largest home-builder in the Twin Cities metro area for every year since 2006, Lennar, has used American Contractors and Associates (ACA) on multiple projects.
ACA gained national attention after owner Ricardo Batres was arrested on Sept. 25 on labor trafficking charges amid horrendous working conditions described by workers. Batres regularly threatened trafficked immigrant workers with deportation if they spoke out or reported their injuries. In one case a wall fell on a worker, severely injuring his back. He was left alone for an hour before it was decided by Batres that instead of going to the doctor, he would be treated by a massage therapist.
Luis Nuñez, member of the CTUL Construction Worker Committee stated the following:
“The recent labor trafficking charges that were filed against a local construction company that worked on projects of large developers and general contractors like Reuter Walton and Lennar in the Twin Cities demonstrates the systemic nature of the problem. In construction, developers and general contractors seem to place significant downwards pressure on multiple tiers of contractors in order to increase their profit margin, often establishing a reality where subcontractors have to skirt the law in order to place the most competitive bid. In order to get to the root causes of human trafficking, we need to foster creative relationships with developers and municipalities that focus both on holding the top tiers of power accountable and on empowering workers to be able to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.”
After the trafficking charges came to light, Lennar Vice President of Communications and spokeswomen Danielle Tocco said that ACA was hired by a subcontractor.
Workers who were victims of ACA’s practices built Lennar homes near Lakes Elmo and Prior. Lennar subcontracted with Carpentry Contractors Company (CCC), owned by Lyman Lumber Company. CCC contracted ACA to work at the Lake Elmo project as a subcontractor. Even after the trafficking charges have come to light, CCC is still working on townhomes in Lake Elmo for Lennar.
A representative from Lyman Companies clarified their history with ACA and their current projects.
"Carpentry Contractors (CCC), a division of Lyman Companies, severed its business relationship with American Contractors in May 2018 due to performance and quality issues, with work completely ending in June 2018. We have cooperated fully with regulators during their investigation. Over the course of CCCs’ contract with ACA, no safety violations were recorded, and no immigration violations were brought to our attention. Lyman operates our businesses in full compliance with all local, state and federal laws and our contractors are expected and required to do the same."
The Lake Elmo site is now infamous as one of the witnesses in the Batres case later had an accident in the workplace. The worker was dragged into a car after the accident.
ACA has a long history of violating federal and state laws. In 2017, ACA was cited with two ongoing OSHA health and safety violations that were cited in the trafficking charges. Also in 2017, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MNDOLI) fined ACA $10,000 related to misclassification of workers. In 2013, MNDOLI fined ACA for $5,000 regarding a worker misclassification issue.
At the time of publication a represenative from Lennar could not be reached.