Protesting unions say convention center project lacks local jobs

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 10:05pm

A few Nashville trade unions are staging a rally Thursday morning to call attention to what they contend is a lack of local jobs created by the ongoing construction of the city’s $585 million convention center.

But Music City Center officials say local representation on the workforce isn’t an issue, pointing out the project has even involved several local unions. Union protestors are simply upset, officials argue, because they’re not working on the project themselves.

The rally is set to begin at 10 a.m. outside the downtown Metro Courthouse. Members of local trade unions — the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council, the Operating Engineers Local Union 369 and the Cement Masons Local Union 909 — are convening before marching to the 16-acre Music City Center construction site where they will hold an informational picket and lunch. Organizers say a few hundred people are expected to attend the rally.

“This project was promoted as ‘Nashville’s stimulus,’ but there are too few paychecks going to Nashville families,” Matthew Capece of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America said in a written statement issued in a news release.

“Nashville taxpayers are footing the bill for the convention center,” he added. “If local businesses and workers are good enough to pay for it, aren’t they not good enough to build it?”

Holly McCall, spokeswoman for the Convention Center Authority, called local job creation/economic stimuli a “fair thing to talk about.”

“But when you’re looking at only three unions complaining, this is not about local jobs. This is about jobs for those three unions,” McCall said.

According to McCall, local unions either already working or set to work on Music City Center include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 429; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 572; International Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86; International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 93; Painters and Glaziers Local 456; and Iron Workers Local 492.

In all, she said 50 percent of the Music City Center’s total workforce during the three-year construction project is likely to be union members.

“Honestly, it is a slap in the face to their brothers in other local trade unions who have worked really hard to put hundreds of people out here,” McCall said. 

One year into Music City Center’s construction, McCall said 29 construction packages have been awarded to subcontractors, 19 of which have gone to Davidson County companies.

She said she did not know what percentage of Music City Center construction jobs would go to Nashvillians because several contractors have not started working at the site yet. 

25 Comments on this post:

By: ButchKerns on 1/20/11 at 5:17

Visit the work site and count the number of non-English speaking Hispanics wearing a hard hat working the sire.

By: tv8527 on 1/20/11 at 7:38

Oh boo hoo.Why should a company pay inflated union wages when they can hire non union workers for 1/3 less money & get the same results.

By: fdanshep on 1/20/11 at 7:43

I do not have a dog in this hunt. I live in Sumner County and work a desk totally unrelated to anything going on at the construction. I am more non-union than pro in my philosophy. However, I have it from an informed source very close to the siuation that very few local laborers are being employed. Butch is correct. The hispanics are from all over and they are treated very much like coolies a century ago. They are hired and fired on a whim sometimes for just being seen having a conversation while on the job. These are non-union workers so they have very little recourse.

McCall says that the three year union participation is likely to be 50%. That is a pie in the sky speculation. What is it right now.? Why aren't there more local non-union workers righrt now?

I support the Convention Center but the General Contractor and others in the construction have sold Mayor Dean and the constitutes of Davidson a bill of goods on the economic stimulus during the course of the construction.

Dean needs to appoint an unbiased commission to audit the contracts. If the 19 contracts supposedly awarded to Davidson are minor contracts that don't employee a significant number of people, then the numbers are being skewed. Cleaning out the porta-potty don't count!

By: 2476 on 1/20/11 at 7:46

tv8527>>> Why should they be allowed to be hiring so many hispanics to be doing the work. That was what was being said when the convention center was being proposed, was it would be invaded by hispanics. You want to give away the work to a group of foreigners that probably don't even live here.

By: bfra on 1/20/11 at 8:05

I support the Convention Center but the General Contractor and others in the construction have sold Mayor Dean and the constitutes of Davidson a bill of goods on the economic stimulus during the course of the construction.

IMO, Dean sold the public a bill of goods and knows exactly what is going on!

By: govskeptic on 1/20/11 at 8:13

What new about this story? Nothing! It's the same with all these
government projects, where the project is sold to the community
on all the jobs that will be provided. Yes, they are provided by
out-of-town contractors hiring crews from all over the US at an
extremely lose wage scale with the locals getting very few and
the promised minority hiring at the very bottom. Fool me once,
fool me twice, doesn't even apply it's happened so often over
the years. Don't think for one minute the Administration was
fooled over this issue!

By: oomarty on 1/20/11 at 8:14

Do you like the 40 hour work week?
Do you like paid vacations?
Do you like paid health and Pension benefits?
A fair wage for working Class people?
What about 8 hour days and overtime?
Paid Holidays?

If you said yes to any of these things you can thank someone in a Union or who joined a Union for them. These Job benefits were not given to you by Corporate entities many designed for profit entirely on the back of the working class people. These rights were fought hard and long for on picket lines all over America.

There right to organizes is the only thing that prohibits slave labor in this country. If a company treats its employees fairly they do not need representation but for those that do not you have to admit Unions are the people speaking up for the working class to be able to support and raise there families in the greed of a Capitalist Society.

The European Unions have more control of company's. There workers get 6 weeks paid vacations, all are guaranteed benefits, Health care and pensions. The Europeans and Japanese build some of the finest, quality products in the world.

The Europeans and Japanese get there health and pension benefits from the Government so there corporations can be more competitive in the marketplace. They tax the UBER wealthy to cover the costs of benefits so company can be more competitive and hire more people. Corporations who are profitable hire more people, Robber Barron's do not.

By: MocMewn on 1/20/11 at 8:22

Dean "knows" what's going on. He knew before contracts were even signed what would happen. He may be a hard-nosed A**hole, but he's not stupid. He just doesn't care who the contractors hire, so long as they get the job done dirt cheap. Sounds like an AC/DC song.......Dirty Deeds.......Yup, that's what it is!

By: numenlumen on 1/20/11 at 8:25

These trade unionists are just invoking the spirit of the Community Redevelopment Act, insisting that local taxes be spent on local business, i.e., on themselves. Where is Barney Frank to egg them on? Personally, if I were a Metro taxpayer, which (thank God) I am no longer, I'd want the govt. to get the most bang for my buck. I'd also hope that foreign competition, from such places as Atlanta and Chicago, would force our local contractors and their grasping unions to become more competitive.

By: Nitzche on 1/20/11 at 8:36

Barry is calling a Summit as we speak!

By: fdanshep on 1/20/11 at 8:42

numenlumen, what you fail to understand or at least state is that this is not a cost-plus contract. The amount of the contract is predetermined and agreed upon. Therefore, the government has lost any chance to get the "bang for it's buck". If they didn't get it on the front end they ain't going to get it. The margin between the contract price and the cost of fulfilling the contract goes into the pocket of the contractor, and does not inure to the benefit of the city. By hiring cheap outside labor, the contractor's margin just gets bigger.

By: bfra on 1/20/11 at 9:41

I feel sure, if we, as Loner says, could "follow the money", there would be a lot more protest.

By: gohomenow on 1/20/11 at 9:57

Wow Karl Ding, your house of cards is falling...

By: Joe Sixpack on 1/20/11 at 10:06

If I remember correctly, all the unions except the SEIU supported this waste of taxpayer money. Maybe next time, those unions will do their homework and read the fine print in the construction contract instead of taking the Mayor's word for it.

Ditto to the NAACP and African-American community who aren't getting the minority business contracts they were promised.

Why these folks trust the word of Greg Hinote and Jim Hester is beyond me. Both of them are weasels who will say or do anything to get what they want.

"Progressive mayor" my @$$. Somebody pick up papers and run against these liars.

By: nvestnbna on 1/20/11 at 10:08

Question I have is when they say 19 of 27 contracts have gone to "local" companies, does this include companies, Clark, for instance that partners with Bell and that's considered a "local" contract? if so that would tend to skew the true 'local' participation at least to some degree. Another gauge is to look at the adjoining parking lots, how many vehicles do you see with out of state plates?

I really think some of the council people and other "promoters" were either naive or disingenuous when they stood before their constituents and claimed the city needed 'this stimulus' project to put our citizens to work.

By: tv8527 on 1/20/11 at 10:57

I personally would like to see Ice called into the convention center project & American labor doing the whole thing. I like immigrants when they come through the proper channels but most Hispanics don't.My point was simple unions have outlived their usefulness. All they breed now are more socialist / Democrat's.Put skilled nonunion workers in there & get them off will save money on the project & get them back in the workforce.

By: pswindle on 1/20/11 at 11:12

This was the main selling point from Dean and that he was to use local contractors and unions.

By: JusticeJobs on 1/20/11 at 12:22

Typical Julia Holly McCall trying to turn Union Trades Against one another. Slap in the Face?? Should Labor Organizations sit on thier hands just because other trades work is going fair...The Union's Leaders wouldn't be doing thier member any justice! Yes..some work is fair. What she didn't metion was that very few Union members are currently onsite.

By: JusticeJobs on 1/20/11 at 12:22

How do they consider employees local? Because they have an a hotel...10 to an appartment? Why not request a TN State ID or Drivers License? That would make to much sense!!!

By: iTiSi on 1/20/11 at 12:27

So this is a $585 million project? If no unions were involved, PERIOD, it would be closer to $300 million I would imagine. Just look at the price of cars these days! There is one other common factor in all these problems combined. The name is King Karl Dean, and his liberal kingdom. His attitude about the fairgrounds is the same one used on the convention center. Those of you who voted for him were warned, and don't say you were not!!!!

By: GUARDIAN on 1/20/11 at 12:55

GUARDIAN=Communist, illegals, muslims with their proclaimed terrorist, minority racist and unions are the enemies of America. They should all be eliminated from our country in whatever way it takes.

By: JusticeJobs on 1/20/11 at 2:57

Save 300 million without Unions - Construction Workers "Deserve Peanuts a Pay", union or nonunion! Please Explain GUARDAN

By: spooky24 on 1/20/11 at 3:38

The union workers can just go back to Saturn-oh I forgot they bankrupted them. already. Perhaps they can convince herr Dean to open up a 'Jobs Bank' like GM did. Get paid time and a half to drink all day and watch game shows on TV-at the local bar across the street from the plant-as they 'Look' for work.

You can complain all you want but this did happen for over 6 years and the investors and taxpayers got stuck with the bill.


By: daeanaira on 1/21/11 at 1:44

I am against both unions and the convention center. However, since they both already exist - ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE JOBS SHOULD BE GOING TO LOCAL CITIZENS. With local and citizens being the operative words.

By: superman77 on 1/21/11 at 8:15

I work at the site, and moved down here to be with my family. Here is how i see it. It took me almost 2 months for my application to hit my boss's desk. I was hired a few days later. My 1st 3 days of living in TN i went to the union to see about employment with them. I'm still waiting on the phone to ring. There have been many nashvilleians hired, with that said most of them want to stand around and do nothing and collect a paycheck. I have seen the attitude that the people of nashville ggive their boss when told to do something. F#$k that get your lazy ass out of bed and fill out an application if you have the skills you'll get a job down but if you dont get hired go stand in the pickett line. I'M SURE THEY WILL GIVE YOU A HOT DOG FOR YOUR EFFORTS. Piss on the unions i was once a member of local 363 in IL they took my money and gave me nothing in return. Right to work states ROCK ON