Continental Properties

Wage theft and exploitation are growing problems in Minnesota's construction industry. Recent media reports indicate that unscrupulous employers have taken advantage of workers in the Twin Cities and statewide, from Rochester to Thief River Falls.

Worker advocates have found evidence of widespread wage theft in the multifamily housing industry, and developer Continental Properties appears to be one of the worst offenders based on the company's persistent use of subcontractors that have been dogged by allegations of misconduct. Headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Continental Properties has developed luxury apartment complexes across the Twin Cities, including Springs at Lake Elmo, which is currently under construction, and Springs at Willowbrooke, which recently broke ground in Oakdale. 


While Continental promises luxury upscale living to residents, conditions for many immigrants who build their projects are anything but, according to workers interviewed. Subcontractors Absolute Drywall, Ed Lunn Construction and StonePro Masonry are infamous among local worker advocates for their treatment of immigrant workers. Absolute has been cited repeatedly for misclassifying workers as independent contractors and was caught using child labor, while Ed Lunn and StonePro evidently cheated workers of thousands of dollars in wages according to whistleblowers and other evidence collected by advocates. StonePro owner Gerald Manning has also apparently promoted hateful views of immigrants and Muslims on a Facebook page registered in his name.


Continental Properties has clearly taken advantage of immigrant workers by repeatedly hiring contractors that cheat and exploit them according to  evidence gathered by worker advocates. Past Continental projects include Springs at Egan Drive in Savage, the Springs at Cobblestone Lake in Apple Valley, and Springs at Lakeville where a young worker fell to his death in a jobsite accident. 


Absolute Drywall 


Absolute Drywall has been fined repeatedly for misclassifying employees as independent contractors -- a scheme that has often been used by contractors to avoid workers compensation and unemployment insurance obligations and to cheat workers of wages owed. The Department of Labor found that the company owed workers over $100k in overtime back wages. Absolute Drywall has also been cited for submitting false and misleading information to authorities regarding employment status and wages paid to employees, and for use of child labor


Ed Lunn Construction

Ed Lunn has been accused of misclassifying workers, failing to pay payroll taxes, and of systematically underpaying employees. Advocates allege that the company's business model relies on wage theft and worker misclassification.

“Cheating contractors create an unlevel playing field for contractors that play by the rules,” according to Nick Wille, with North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. “Contractors like Ed Lunn Construction are hiring subcontractors and independent contractors and paying them off the books in cash and under the table.”

In some cases, workers allege that they simply weren't paid for their work. For example, workers accused Ed Lunn of failing to pay thousands of dollars in back wages for work on the River Glen Apartments in Rochester.

According to a July 6, 2019, Star Tribune article, "Trouble began...when the men didn’t get paid and approached Lunn’s representative, Josh Tinker. Tinker told them they had to finish building garages first...but agreed to give the men $1,000 each to tide them over. Later, the men were told they had to finish some porches, but when they finished the work, they still didn’t get their money."

“You know they kept kind of saying 'Oh, you know your check will come later, oh we'll pay you,’ but that was a lie. It didn't come on time,” Adalid Zavala said through translator Ruth Schultz, with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha.

Stone Pro Masonry, LLC

Stone Pro owner Gerald Manning seems to think that immigrants are ruining America based on a review of Facebook, including content apparently posted by Manning that seems to advocate Building a Wall, fan the flames of Islamophobia and accuse immigrants of exploiting social programs.

But Manning's views on immigrants don't seem to have stopped him from making a living off their labor, or from allegedly stealing some of their hard-earned wages based on an investigation by immigrant worker advocates and labor unions.

Despite his clearly anti-immigrant views, Gerald Manning’s company is among a small number of contractors that rely heavily on immigrant workers recruited through the Federal H-2B visa program. The H-2B program allows employers to bring in workers on temporary visas for seasonal work when U.S. workers cannot be found. The program has been described as rife with abuses and as a form of indentured servitude by the Southern Poverty Law Center, because immigrant workers are shackled to a single employer, have little recourse when they are cheated or abused, and enforcement of program rules is lax.

In 2019, Stone Pro obtained permission to employ 20 H-2B Visa Workers in the Twin Cities and 10 more in Eau Claire and Western Wisconsin. The H-2B program requires employers to pay minimum wage rates based on the location and type of work performed in order to protect immigrant workers from exploitation and prevent the program from displacing local workers or eroding area wage standards. Unfortunately, Stone Pro appeared to have systematically underpaid H-2B workers by approximately $7.91 per hour for hundreds of hours of work based on a LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota investigation. A more detailed description of the apparent wage theft scheme can be found hereStone Pro continues to rely on the H-2B program for labor. In 2021, the company obtained permission to employ approximately 17 H-2B Visa Workers in Minnesota and 10 more in Eau Claire and Western Wisconsin.

Stone Pro’s H-2B visa workers aren’t the only victims of the company’s evidently deceptive practices: the H-2B program requires employers to notify U.S. workers of job opportunities and hire qualified applicants before hiring H-2B visa workers. But concrete laborers in Minnesota and Wisconsin never got the notice because the jobs were listed under the wrong occupation at the wrong pay rates. If the information submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor is accurate, a couple-dozen Minnesota and Wisconsin laborers also lost the opportunities to earn as much as $54,000 in wages each.

Stone Pro’s mistreatment and exploitation of immigrant workers is not limited to those on H-2B visas. Worker testimony alleges that the company’s non-H2B immigrant workforce has also been subject to abusive treatment by supervisors, cheated of wages owed, and threatened with immigration enforcement for objecting to mistreatment.

Continental Properties and Local Communities Can Do Better:

When a local housing development provides an opportunity for a non-responsible developer to profit off the backs of underpaid or unpaid immigrant laborer, it hurts the entire community. Area contractors that play by the rules are unfairly disadvantaged when they are forced to compete with companies that misclassify workers and steal wages. Local workers miss out on job opportunities or face exploitation.

Continental Properties is currently constructing a new luxury housing complex in Lake Elmo and plans to build a similar project in Oakdale. We call on Continental Properties to adopt a responsible contractor policy to ensure that wage theft and other forms of workers exploitation do not occur on their projects. In the meantime, cities like Lake Elmo and Oakdale can do more to protect local residents, workers, and businesses by taking a closer look at development proposals to ensure that they make our communities better, not worse. We can't wait for project developers to do the right thing. We need to act now. 


 News Feed: Wage Theft and Worker Exploitation in the News


Star Tribune: Rochester case is first test of new wage theft law

KIMT 3 News: Standing against tax fraud in the construction industry

WCCO 4 CBS Minnesota: Rochester Wage Theft Case Poses Test for New Minnesota Law

Insurance Journal: Minnesota Construction Workers' Lawsuit Accuses Employer of Wage Theft