About 100 D.C. workers and supporters carried a giant rat through GW’s campus and rallied outside the president’s office June 27 to draw attention to labor practices of a GW building contractor.
Miller & Long Co., a Bethesda-based concrete firm GW hired to work on the new Elliott School of International Affairs building, works for the University despite breaking a D.C. law that requires contractors to establish an approved apprenticeship program to train and hire D.C. residents.
The company failed to get D.C. approval to establish an apprenticeship-training program, which is required for projects that receive more than $500,000 from the city such as the Elliott School site. There is only one approved apprenticeship program in D.C., which Miller & Long must use, unless they get their own program approved, said Lionel Edmonds, co-chairman of the Washington Interfaith Network.
Protesters charged that GW is supporting illegal practices that are
limiting job opportunities for D.C. residents. They chanted “D.C. jobs for D.C. residents” and carried signs that read “Miller & Long hire me” as they marched along the sidewalk across from the 1957 E St. construction site.
“We plan on taking action on GW and feel GW is in bed with Miller & Long,” said Dennis Martire, assistant regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “Instead of sanctioning them, (GW is) supporting them.”
University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said in May that GW would work to get Miller & Long in compliance with the law. The University’s decision to use a contractor without an approved apprenticeship program could hurt future bids for city assistance, protesters said.
Demonstrators marched to University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s Rice Hall office with a 20-foot inflatable rat that read “Miller & Long loves D.C. tax dollars, hates D.C. workers” to demand that GW force Miller & Long comply with the law.
Protestors expect GW to have a firm policy on contractors, said Jos Williams, president of Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO. He said he blames GW for the labor practices more than Miller & Long, because the company has a history of labor law violations.
“GW is a resident of D.C.,” Williams said. “They have been here a long time and have an obligation to the District…GW has a greater application.”
GW officials said they will continue to work with Miller & Long to encourage training of D.C. residents. Barber said the company does train workers even though the company does not have an approved apprenticeship program.
In a letter to Edmonds obtained by The Hatchet, Barber highlighted the details of Miller & Long’s work force, which consists of 82 percent minorities and about 16 percent D.C. residents. On the Elliott School site of 118 workers, 40 are D.C. residents.
“Miller & Long thinks the apprenticeship standards are outdated and favor unions,” Barber said. “We think they’re getting a bad rap.”
Barber said GW is not violating any laws because the University only agreed to make a “good-faith effort” to get contractors to comply with the apprenticeship standards when it obtained the bonds to finance construction.
GW officials had previously assured the city that the University and their subcontractors would comply with the apprenticeship requirement. D.C. gave Miller & Long a May 31 deadline to adopt an acceptable program. Barber said GW would act in accordance with the law in a May 21 Hatchet article.
Edmonds said GW’s efforts are insufficient, and he is asking for information on the University’s 22 other contractors because he believes a number of them are disobeying the law. He said his organization will “make life difficult for GW” by holding up applications for zoning and industrial revenue bond funding.
Miller & Long is GW’s only contractor in violation of the law, Barber said in May.
During the June 27 protest, Miller & Long workers staged what a Miller & Long official called “a counter-demonstration.”
“We are complying with the contract GW had us sign,” said Myles Gladstone, vice president for human resources for Miller & Long.
Gladstone noted benefits Miller & Long provides its workers, including
high wages and good compensation packages.
“We have an obligation for training everyone that works for us,” he said. “We want qualified people that are drug free. We look at them as people, not as concrete workers.”