Construction workers will rally in the Quad Cities today (Saturday) to protest plans by builders of a big new Wal-Mart store to hire non-union labor. Rory Washburn is executive director of the Tri-City Building Trades Council and says it’s just one of many big national chains that tend to bring along their own construction crews.It’s not about wanting exclusively union contractors or workers, but he says all the work should be done by local workers, union or not. Washburn says outside contractors not only don’t pay union wages, they don’t offer benefits like healthcare, and often bring in workers from other states who are paid even less than the local going rates for non-union labor. The unions had a “project agreement” while building a previous Wal-Mart, a verbal agreement that the union workers would get the jobs on that and the next store the chain built here, but he says now the company’s bringing in crews from Southern Illinois, Kentucky and Alabama, and he charges he thinks they even include illegal immigrant workers. There is no state law or city rule on the books requiring developers to hire local workers, or union labor, though Washburn says they’ve talked with local leaders about it. Washburn says there should be some “responsible contracting ordinance” in place that would require them to at least pay taxes and provide benefits to the workers. That lack of benefits like health coverage is one of the biggest concerns for construction workers, according to Washburn. He says a young man was hurt recently when he fell at that construction site, and the construction company he worked for gave no health benefits at all…a contractor from Kentucky. Members of the Tri City Building Trades Council, The Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and other organizations in the Quad Cities will hold a rally at the new Wal-Mart store being built on West Kimberly Road in Davenport from nine till eleven this morning.
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