Investigators for the Department of Homeland Security are looking into the presence of European subcontractors at a DaimlerChrysler construction project in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The investigation, spawned by complaints from an Alabama trade union that did not get the work, will determine whether the work visas for a group of 55 Polish and German equipment installation workers comply with U.S. immigration laws.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., requested the investigation. Levin got involved after a trade union objected to the presence of the foreign workers, who are installing paint equipment at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. in Tuscaloosa. The installation is part of a $600 million plant expansion - a project that has drawn 6,500 workers to the site.
The union claims the foreign employees are underpaid and are performing work that could be handled by U.S. workers. The Polish workers are paid approximately $1,100 a month, according to one press report.
The 55 workers are installing paint-shop equipment developed in Germany for DaimlerChrysler by three European companies. Eisenmann Corp., the German paint technology supplier, has the contract to rebuild the paint shop. Eisenmann has 500 workers on the site. The company is installing a pre-treatment paint system that can rotate cars as they pass through the paint shop. The system is new to the North American industry.