PHOTO BY DENNIS MYERS
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A protest at the University of Nevada, Reno last week drew attention to the use of allegedly illegal labor on the campus.
Members of Laborers Union Local 160 protested to throw a spotlight on what they consider shoddy practices by the contractor doing work at the former Getchell Library building, where asbestos is being removed in preparation for building's demolition to make way for construction of a $36 million “student achievement center.”
The union said numerous workers who are not employable in the United States are being used on the job. Asked how they knew this, Laborers' organizer Eloy Jara said he knows many of them because they used to be members of the union. Many of those now listed on sign-up sheets from the Getchell job dropped their memberships in the union because they were unemployable, he said. Four of those on the sign-up sheets, he added, have previously been deported.
A sign-in sheet for the Getchell building (in background) asbestos job.
PHOTO BY DENNIS MYERS
“And some of these guys have been turned back to our local from some of our contractors because they're not employable in the United States,” he said. “So, therefore, we're not going to argue with that. That's how we know. … He knows that he can exploit the workers because he can do whatever he wants with them because they're not legal.”
“I wasn't aware of what their claims were, so I'm not prepared to comment,” said Tom Davis of Advance Installations, Inc., the contractor on the asbestos removal job.
The union said both Core Construction—the main contractor that selected Advanced for the asbestos job—and the university were informed before Advanced was selected that it had a history of “prevailing wage complaints, exploitation of undocumented workers and issues with the Nevada State Contractors Board.”
The dispute also revived angry talk on campus about why the university is tearing down the building in the first place, instead of converting it to another use. The structure is relatively new, completed in 1962, and faculty and staffers have been critical of the demolition in an era when the campus budget has seen the most severe budget cuts since the Depression. “A new building is a luxury when the existing building is available,” one professor said.
Q&D Construction and Clark & Sullivan Construction are suing the university over the selection of Arizona-based Core as the contractor for the Getchell project.