Protesters attempted to disrupt Thursday’s “Crossfire” broadcast in the Jack Morton Auditorium by clapping, blowing whistles and chanting “GWU exploits workers.” Almost 30 demonstrators, who did not appear to be students, were escorted from the audience as the show cut to a commercial for its national audience.
“Crossfire” Executive Producer Sam Feist said the incident did not appear on the air, but viewers reported hearing the first part of the disturbance.
GW officials said they believe the men were union employees of Oncore Construction, a company which local labor activist groups and GW’s Progressive Student Union have recently accused of unfair labor practices.
The disturbance did not draw attention during the rest of the show, which focused on drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and President George W. Bush’s Middle East policy.
Director of Special Events Jim Hess said the University and CNN are discussing ways to prevent similar interruptions in the future. He did not elaborate.
Oncore, a concrete company, has been working with GW contractor Whiting and Turner on several projects, including the Health and Wellness Center, a Somers Hall addition and the Virginia campus National Transportation Safety Board project.
Laborers Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition (MAROC) and Laborer’s International Union of North America, both D.C.-based workers’ rights groups, have vocally criticizing the subcontractor since late March for refusing to sign a collective bargaining agreement that would unionize the company’s workers.
MAROC organizer Stephen Lanning said in an interview conducted after a protest on campus two weeks ago that Oncore mistreats workers by paying them “unfair” wages, offering unaffordable health plans, discriminating against black workers and providing no retirement plans.
Oncore President Bob MacDaniels denied the allegations at the time. He said the labor groups have been “going after” several local concrete contractors who are “merit-shop,” meaning that employees are paid based on the quality of their work.
“Crossfire” staff did not seem upset by the interruption.
Host Tucker Carlson called the demonstration “silly and annoying,” but said he would have been happy to talk to the workers.
“I’ve interviewed many wackos in my day,” he said.
Paul Begala, who also hosts the show, said, “Things happen.”