TCU’s campus has become a stage for labor protests against a Dallas-based construction company sub-contracted for work at TCU.Seven employees from Great Western Erectors, a concrete steel reinforcing company, and an Iron Worker International Union worker have been on campus this week claiming the company mistreats its employees.
William Morales, an employee for Great Western Erectors and one of the protesters, said his company treats its employees unfairly.
“We have no voice or respect in the company,” Morales said. “We have no benefits, vacation, or sick days. Often times, there is not water at the work sites, and they make us buy our own safety equipment.”
Chancellor Victor Boschini said he talked to an unidentified employee for Great Western Erectors several weeks ago and said the employee did not mention any sort of mistreatment.
“If Great Western Erectors was doing anything its workers are saying it does, I would not want that company on my campus, but I could not substantiate any of their claims,” Boschini said. “We have an ethical responsibility to make sure all workers are being treated fairly, but I have not seen these protesters working on site.”
Great Western Erectors declined to comment on the situation, but sent a statement that stated the allegations being made by the Iron Worker International Union are false, and are being made in an attempt to organize a union for the workers.
The company is hired by Austin Commercial, which is in charge of TCU’s renovations, stated Tracy Syler-Jones, assistant vice chancellor for marketing and communication, in an e-mail Wednesday.
“Austin Commercial has a positive work history with TCU, so we believe Austin and its sub-contractor will work together to resolve these issues,” Syler-Jones said. “It is our understanding that their concerns originated at another construction site.”
Boschini said the dispute is between Austin Commercial and Great Western Erectors, not TCU.
Martin Ramirez, a representative of the Iron Worker International Union, said he was helping the protesters because “this is about respect, justice, and dignity for the workers.”
The protesters are not part of a union, Ramirez said.
Morales said the goal of their protests on campus is to get students to write letters to Great Western Erectors, encouraging the owners to treat their employees better. He said workers from Great Western Erectors have continually been on strike across the country for 14 months.
“We don’t do this for fun,” Morales said. “We have bills to pay and families to take care of, but protesting is the only way to make this company change. We can’t stop now.”
Great Western Erectors also has offices in Phoenix and Denver.
Morales said eight other workers protested Wednesday in Arizona as well. He said more than 2,000 letters were sent to the company in Phoenix, and workers have recently received water on some job sites, dental insurance and a small bonus.
According to the Arizona AFL-CIO union Web site, the workers have been on strike since May 2005 and have visited more than 100 companies who hire Great Western Erectors.
Morales and Ramirez said they stayed on public sidewalks because Fort Worth Police told the men they could not protest on private property.
Morales said they will protest on campus again next week.