06/26/2022

Immigrants flooded California construction. Worker pay sank. Here’s why

Eddie Ybarra and Francisco Martinez, both in their 40s, work side by side building the walls of two of the newest condo buildings in downtown Los Angeles. They drive pickup trucks to work, park in adjacent lots and both take their lunch break around 10 a.m. That’s about all they share.

Ybarra, born in Los Angeles, has built a solidly middle-class lifestyle on more than two decades in the carpenters’ union, earning $40 an hour on top of a pension, healthcare and unlimited vacation days.

Martinez, born in Guadalajara, Mexico, works for a nonunion contractor, installing metal panels and other parts for $27.50 an hour. He doesn’t have retirement savings, his insurance doesn’t cover his family and he gets five vacation days per year.

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