The fight at Great Western Erectors

January 20, 2009

DENTON, Texas--Lack of clean drinking water is just one example of the terrible conditions that workers at Great Western Erectors are organizing to end.

Great Western Erectors is a reinforcing steel, concrete and rebar contractor based in Dallas, with offices in Phoenix and Denver. In May 2005, a number of workers walked out on strike against the company over the lack of drinking water at job sites. The company did an about-face and provided a small wage increase to "cover" employees' expenses.

But this hardly solved the problem. In 2006, there was at least one serious case of dehydration at a Great Western Erectors job site. This unfortunate worker has yet to be compensated by the company for his medical expenses.

Since 2005, walkouts have increased--the most recent one taking place in October 2008--as more workers find working conditions unbearable.

In addition to not being provided drinking water, workers are often forced to work through breaks and lunch periods. They aren't provided with affordable health insurance or vacation time and they even have to provide their own safety equipment.

Some workers have spoken up about being hired on with a Spanish-language contract only to find out that management only speaks English whenever a grievance is raised. If the conditions of the job don't demean employees enough, Phoenix workers report an incident in 2005 when management threatened them with a handgun.

Workers formed the Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors, along with community groups and activists, to call public attention to the injustices they have suffered. Over the last few years, city governments, schools and companies that would contract the services of the company have sent Great Western Erectors multiple appeals to investigate claims of worker abuse. Despite this, the company has refuses to deal with workers.

The dedication of these workers is yielding some results. Last month, some workers involved in the coalition participated with North Texas Jobs with Justice and the International Socialist Organization in a demonstration against corporate bailouts, and their story made the front page of the local Denton Record Chronicle.

Public exposure of their mistreatment is important, but it's clear that Great Western Erectors won't budge until they feel the pressure from friends of labor and justice. These workers need our solidarity and a campaign to demand that our schools and local governments won't deal with Great Western Erectors until workers' conditions improve.

Contact the Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors by e-mail at [email protected] or call 866-493-5878.

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