Workers protest unpaid wages at Oorah

Oorah's BoyZone camp in Jefferson. Photo by Julia Reischel

The Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey newspaper, reports that Oorah Inc., the company that owns a Jewish boy's summer camp in the Schoharie County town of Jefferson, was the target of a noisy protest about labor conditions last week.

A New-Jersey-based immmigrant-rights group called New Labor organized the protest of Oorah's New Jersey headquarters last Thursday. About 19 workers  who claimed that they were stiffed three-weeks' pay while working construction and janitorial jobs at the Jewish BoyZone camp this summer spent an hour demonstrating at Oorah's entrance:

"At first we were paid really well, every weekend," said Humburto Rodriguez, 28, of Lakewood. "Then we were told that we had too many hours and we stopped getting paid." For about an hour Thursday, about 30 people shouted outside Oorah's gates.

The newspaper interviewed Jefferson's town supervisor, Dan Singletary, about the men's claims. Singletary said that a stream of unhappy laborers have contacted his town about unpaid wages:

The work mostly is completed and town officials are pleased with the quality of what was built, Singletary said. But, a few Hispanic men did come to town officials looking for help about not being paid in the summer. Those men were referred to the New York State Department of Labor.

The Park Press also talked to Oorah's spokesman, Clifford Meth, who said that the Labor Department hasn't found any faults with Oorah. But he added that Oorah's masonry contractor, which may have employed some of the irate laborers, hasn't been fully paid yet:

Oorah has spent about $150,000 for masonry and tile work, Meth said. He said the unpaid workers would have been hired by a contractor for that work. Rodriguez said he was doing work with concrete at the camp. Oorah still owes about $30,000 to its masonry contractor, Meth said. It is on a payment plan for that money.

At the demonstration, Oorah refused to pay the men. In response, New Labor is considering filing a lawsuit.

Oorah already has a lot of litigation on its hands over its activities in the Catskills. Right now, there are three active lawsuits involving the company in Schoharie County, including two by irate neighbors of a second camp the company runs in the town of Gilboa, in Schoharie County. (One of those lawsuits was remanded to Schoharie County state court earlier this summer.)

The third lawsuit, which Oorah filed earlier this year after a dispute with the town of Jefferson over code enforcement at the Jewish Boy Zone camp, is also still active.