Jose De Paz


[Excerpt] In October 1991, drywall hanger Jesus Gomez complained to the drywall contractor for whom he worked that his check was short $60 for the week. The contractor refused to pay up the difference — and he felt safe doing so. He'd conducted business this way for years and his predatory attitude told him these drywallers, (poor, immigrant, Mexican, often undocumented, and without a union to defend their interests,) were in no position to challenge the status quo. Besides, the economic recession and construction slump provided added insurance against worker discontent.

Unfortunately for drywall contractors, Gomez was more than discontented. He was determined to do something about this state of affairs. Gomez began to speak with other drywallers at their homes and at worksites throughout southern California, slowly fashioning the complaints and frustration into collective strength and a plan of action. When the group became a few hundred strong, an ultimatum was issued to contractors: Either you agree to increases in piece rates and other conditions by June 1, 1992 or we will strike.