About 40 union workers held up picket signs reading “Practice What You Preach” and “Equality! Justice!” as they marched outside the future location of USC’s new Catholic Center Wednesday, at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and University Avenue.
The protest, hosted by the Coalition for Jobsite Justice, was aimed at ensuring the Catholic Center is built with community members’ rights in mind.
“We would like to see the Catholic Center pre-qualify contractors so that they offer fair wages, family protection, health insurance and employee benefits to their workers,” said Don Newton, a member of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union.
According to Newton, construction was going well when it was in the hands of Matt Construction, which posted the mock-up plan of the site. The church switched contractors to Frazier Masonry, however, and the protestors believe the company is not offering employees the benefits they deserve.
“Frazier Masonry does not respect apprenticeship and only certain people benefit,” said Robbie Hunter, executive secretary of the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. “There should be an obligation to respect the standards of working people in the area.”
Catholic Center officials were unavailable for comment at presstime.
Hunter said the plan is to first ensure fair contractors are brought in so all workers have fair rights.
“Phase two is to hire local workers instead of hiring from different counties and states,” Hunter said.
Protestors hope local unions will help the employees.
“The people who are working here now are working without insurance,” said Rosalio Martinez, a protestor and member of a worker’s union. “I am here today hoping that people will listen because local unions can bring benefits to their employees and everyone should have the chance to work correctly.”
Richard Whitney, president, secretary and treasurer of the BAC Union disapproved.
Whitney said it is ironic the Catholic Church, which preaches that people should do good deeds, is allowing this injustice to occur in building their site.
“Pope John Paul II talked about man should have the right to fair pay, fair work and health care, but we do not see that happening here,” Whitney said.
Robert Collins, a field representative for the BAC Union, said given its location, USC is connected to the surrounding community and should help get the community to support the church.
“USC has been a union-friendly campus in the past,” Collins said. “We have contacted Father Seyer from the church here but we have not received a response yet.”
Newton said they plan to coordinate with the university in upcoming weeks.
“We will work with USC to see that local workers are brought in and that they receive the correct benefits,” Newton said.