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On the picket line

December 14, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

University of Rochester construction workers
Fremont, Calif., teachers

University of Rochester construction workers
By Jonathan Chiarella

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--Carpenters picketed Christenson Construction Management the week of November 26 to protest its exploitative hiring practices and failure to pay living wages.

The workers, members of International Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 85, picketed the Brooks Landing Project, a "revitalization" development to be used in part by the University of Rochester.

Also in attendance were members of Laborers Local 435. On November 30, the organizers drew attention with giant inflated rats, representing the practices by the construction project's management--who, in a Local 85 member's words, "just sit in that trailer and rip people off."

The site will include an 80-room extended-stay Staybridge Suites hotel, office and retail space used in part by the university, an Urban Brew coffee shop, and additional retail space. Christenson funds the project with city taxes through the contract they won.

Chuck Peaslee of Local 85 said that Christenson won the bid because of unrealistically low cost projections that are only possible with unethical business practices. Christenson drew further attention when it hired local worker James Croner, only to underpay and fire him when he visited the city hour and wage investigator, Michael Sullivan. Croner received pay of $12 per hour and worked 10-hour days without overtime. He has yet to receive pay for the last two days he worked.

Christenson's hiring practices have allowed the company to dodge paying benefits, including Social Security, health and workers' compensation, because everyone employed was forced to file his or her own federal tax number. This allowed Christenson to legally treat its workers as independent contractors.

Since the rationale for using taxes to fund the project was to "revitalize" local economy, Local 85's Peaslee emphasized the importance of ensuring city money goes to pay local workers, and not to let Christenson's owners swallow the money or subcontract the work.

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Fremont, Calif., teachers
By John Gallagher

FREMONT, Calif.--Teachers in the Fremont Unified School District are holding informational pickets to raise awareness that contract negotiations are stalled.

The teachers have been working without a contract for six months. Frustration with this impasse was fueled by the most recent offer by the district, which was virtually the same as a month ago. The Fremont Unified District Teachers Association has declared an impasse in talks.

Teachers are only asking for a cost-of-living adjustment that the district has already received from the state. Class sizes in special education are also on the table, as well as class sizes in 7th and 8th grade algebra, which have been known to exceed 35 students for a single teacher.

Teachers on the informational pickets were greeted with honks of support. Parents walking their children to school promised they would contact school board members to sign a fair contract. A state mediator is scheduled to meet with the bargaining teams on December 10.

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