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NV Construction Firm Sues Union for Defamation

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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A Las Vegas-area construction firm is filing a defamation lawsuit against a local union, claiming the group’s secretary impersonated a county official and is intentionally spreading false claims of labor disputes.

Muller Construction, which works on commerical and infrastructure projects, filed the suit against Laborers Local 872 and its secretary Lou DeSalvio on Jan. 18 in the Clark County District Court. The Nevada Foundation for Fair Contracting is also named as a defendant.

What Happened?

The suit follows claims by DeSalvio that Muller Construction (a non-union company) underpaid construction employees during a public works job that began in November 2017—a $4 million contract installing about 800 steel bollards along the Las Vegas Strip.

DeSalvio’s comments were picked up by major news outlets in the region, just one of the factos that led the company to the defamation lawsuit.

“These allegations are immensely harmful to this company, and they’re absolutely false. There has to be consequences,” said Robert Kern, an attorney representing Muller, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “You’re talking about the livelihood and survival of this company and its employees.”

The company says in the suit that on Dec. 14, DeSalvio gained access to the worksite by falsely claiming to be a Clark County official. He conducted several interviews with employees, asking them what kind of jobs they were doing and what they were getting paid.

According to Muller, neither employee complained about their pay. Muller says that because DeSalvio observed workers being paid as cement masons working on rebar, he deduced that the company wasn’t paying its workers fairly.

However, Muller cited in its suit that Nevada law requires that workers on public projects be paid the prevailing wage for their work. If they’re doing more than one type of work, they are to get paid the wage for the work that takes up more than 40 percent of their time. Muller says in its suit that all of its employees are paid appropriate wages.

After that visit DeSalvio spoke with various news outlets, and Muller alleges that he falsely said the employees he spoke with complained of their pay.

The Whole Picture

The company is alleging that the union conspired to promote an entire defamatory campaign, saying that before DeSalvio even visited the site, union picketers were stationed outside of the firm’s main office and work sites, holding banners about labor disputes, yelling at workers and, on at least one occasion, throwing objects at workers.

The suit also details another incident at the beginning of January, that claims members of the union pointedly parked an SUV with a “government-looking seal” reading “Payroll Fraud Investigator” in front of the firm’s office. The men in the vehicle never went inside the building, performing no investigations while they were there. They also did not readily identify themselves, saying only that they were from the union.

What Happens Now?

Prior to DeSalvio’s claims, Muller was set to get a contract extension with the county worth $2.5 million. Now, however, county commissioners have tabled their decision on whether or not to award the extension.

“The effect of these statements has been to create the perception and belief among the public that Muller is an unscrupulous company that violates the law, abuses its workers, and hires ‘scabs’ to replace its (allegedly) striking workers,” the lawsuit states.

“As Muller is a construction contractor whose business is largely dependent upon receiving public works and government contracts, such perceptions among the public are vastly damaging, as they could convince County officials to cease contracting with Muller entirely.”

Muller is seeking damages exceeding $10,000, plus attorney fees and wants all false statements publicly retracted.

DeSalvio has denied the allegations against him.

   

Tagged categories: Ethics; Government contracts; Lawsuits

Comment from Paul Wilcox, (1/30/2018, 4:17 AM)

They should get rid of ALL UNIONS.......overpaid & very under worked.


Comment from Joseph Gilman, (1/30/2018, 9:41 AM)

Cue the stupid get rid of all unions comments


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