11/21/08

Union pickets v. exploited non-union workers

Corrupt union calls 'shame'

About 50 carpenters picketed outside a Tempe campus construction site Wednesday morning, protesting the use of nonunion workers in building a new home for Barrett, the Honors College. Members of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, the primary labor union for carpenters in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and California, carried picket signs as they demonstrated near Lemon Street and Rural Road.

Members said they were protesting low wages and lack of benefits provided by the Pete King Nevada Corp., a subcontractor hired by the project’s general contractor, hardison/downey/kitchell, to install drywall in the 490,000 square foot, $110 million complex. Hal Jensen, vice president of the carpenters union, said Pete King exploits workers, hires illegal immigrants and does not meeting community standards for compensation.

“The community standard for workers who install drywall is $21 to $22 per hour and full benefits,” Jensen said. “Pete King is paying the guys in there $14 to $16 an hour, and they have no benefits.”

Jensen said he wanted to use the protest as a way to let the nonunion workers know their employer is exploiting them. The dispute, he said, is not with ASU but with Pete King.

“We have disputes with King in three of the five states we represent,” he said. “The ASU community has been incredibly supportive. Students drive by and honk, and we have had people driving Escalades, who look like they could be professors, driving by and showing support.”

Phillip Aguayo, membership development representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he had similar complaints with nonunion electrical workers hired to work on the project.

“[The electrical subcontractor who] is doing the wiring for this building, and they are just like Pete King. They are nonunion, and they don’t meet the community standard when it comes to paying their employees,” Aguayo said.

Aguayo was not involved in the protest but said he was driving by and stopped to lend his support.

Bruce Jensen, executive director of Capital Programs Management at ASU, said the University has no preference as to who a general contractor hires to complete a project.

“Arizona is a right-to-work state, which means there are no requirements in terms of union versus nonunion workers,” Jensen said.

Jensen said ASU provides oversight on projects in terms of the qualifications and competence of contractors and the subcontractors that they hire but has no preference about whether workers are unionized.

Gerry Lusson, business representative for the carpenters union, echoed the complaints of Hal Jensen.

“Pete King uses his employees; he doesn’t give them benefits and doesn’t meet the community standard,” Lusson said. “We don’t want to be here but [King has] got rats working in that building.”

Lusson said they began the protest at about 10 a.m. Wednesday and stayed until around noon.

“We’ll be here every day until Pete King starts compensating his employees,” he said.

Representatives from the Pete King Nevada Corp. did not return multiple phone calls.

(asuwebdevil.com)

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