A local carpenters union is protesting the developer slated to work on Square 54, saying the developer has a history of exploiting migrant workers.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters began picketing in front of the empty lot across from the GW Hospital early this summer. The picketers say that Boston Properties, the commercial developer overseeing Square 54, exploits its workers. Boston Properties is leasing the property from the University.
George Eisner, organizing director of MARCC, said the contractors working on Boston Properties do not treat their workers – many of whom are immigrants properly and also pay them under the table.
“We have a lot of affidavit statements from workers,” he said. “We have copies of pay stubs. We have where they show they don’t pay income taxes.”
Eisner was unable to produce any documented proof of his allegations against Boston Properties.
Fliers being handed out on the street state that “a close investigation of construction projects in Boston Properties buildings reveals repeated instances of immigrant worker exploitation.”
Yuchong Yi, vice president and regional council for Boston Properties, said the company is very careful when dealing with such allegations.
“We require all of our contractors and any work that’s done in our buildings to be performed in compliance to all applicable laws,” Yi said. “If someone is not working within all the laws, then we contact them and investigate them.”
Tracy Schario said GW spoke with Boston Properties when the picketing began this summer.
“They have assured us that they are operating in a lawful manner,” Schario said. “We have hundreds of partners, and you hope that they operate in a manner that reflects well on the University. But sometimes if something happens it can have an impact on the University.”
Many holding signs across from the Foggy Bottom Metro said while they are not carpenters, they support workers’ rights. Some said they were hired off of the street and paid to protest.
Mike Zaner, a carpenter with MARCC, said he helped organize the protest.
“I explain to everyone who comes on board with us what the issues are, that we’re protesting substandard wages,” Zaner said. “One of our main criteria for coming on board is we look for people who support what were doing.”
He added that several of the people standing with signs are sick and need money.
“There are people on my picket line who are undergoing chemo and they come out with us and they need a little bit of money to help with their medical needs,” Zaner said. “And all they do is stand there and hold the sign.”
Lester Moore, who was protesting, said he opposes any company that ignores workers’ rights and fair wages.
“When people from other countries come over to the U.S. they don’t know the value of money.” Moore said.
This article appeared in the September 20, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.