After being stranded in Missouri for several days, metro Atlanta laborers who say they were left unpaid and hungry were back home Thursday, seeking answers.
“This trip had us depressed the whole time,” said Barceneas Cosby of Atlanta, one of several dozen workers who answered a staffing agency’s call for work in the “Show Me State.”
Marietta-based Everything Staffing sought workers on behalf of a Stone Mountain company that promised construction work in exchange for $1,000 a week.
The DeKalb County company, a subcontractor called Black Sparta, was working for another company building student homes in Columbia, Mo., Enterprise Construction. Black Sparta had agreed to provide food, gas and lodging for the Atlanta laborers, according to Bobby Blanks of Everything Staffing.
Workers, however, said none of the promises were kept, the main one being a paycheck.
“Now we are coming home to nothing,” Cosby said Thursday. “We don’t have jobs. We don’t have nothing.”
Robert and Barbara Harris told Channel 2 Action News they sold their wedding rings to get back to Georgia.
“They gave us a few hundred bucks, and we bought gas for our truck and brought a few people back with us,” Robert Harris said.
Harris said he thought he’d landed a two-year construction job and spent the last of the couple’s savings to get to Missouri.
“I answered an ad on Craigslist, and they seemed to be legit,” Harris told Channel 2. “We went out to Missouri to build houses.”
Once Harris and others got to the work site, however, there were no jobs.
Blank, of Everything Staffing, said he, too, is seeking answers.
“They (the workers) definitely deserve to find out the truth,” Blank told Channel 2. He said he signed a contract with Black Sparta to provide the workers but has not been able to get in touch with the company since the workers were left stranded.
According to a report by an ABC affiliate in Missouri, Channel 17, the work involved building student homes at Aspen Heights in Columbia. The job, however, required skilled framers, not laborers, the station reported. Cosby said the call went out for 40 framers and 10 laborers.
The Atlantans said they put in two and a half days’ work but didn’t get paid. They were forced to leave an Econo Lodge because their lodging bills were also unpaid.
After their plight was reported in the news, churches and Papa John’s pizza restaurant stepped in to provide food for the Atlantans, but the men said they ended up sleeping in their vehicles.
“Everybody put money together,” Cosby said. “We had churches in Missouri that looked out for us. Papa John’s looked out for us real good.”
“This was a bogus trip that cost us a lot of time and money,” added Brandon Spear of Fairburn. “We went to do something positive. Without family, we would have died out there.”
Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this report