Regional labor union protests UO over potential residence hall construction contract
A group of labor union members have peacefully rallied against the University of Oregon in front of Domino’s on Franklin Boulevard for at least 14 days.
The group’s sign reads: “Shame on University of Oregon – Labor Dispute.”
A.J. Indell, a member of Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said the union is trying to influence the university’s decision on who to hire to build the new residence hall. Its goal is to prevent the contract from going to a construction company with a bad reputation of not paying its workers properly.
“When you have a company not paying its workers standard area wage, the workers cannot support themselves and their families,” Indell said. “That’s not right. That’s somebody the university should not be hiring.”
The company in question is the regional Ron Rust Drywall construction company. The family-run company has been operating since 1988, according to the Oregon Business Registry.
UO spokesperson Tobin Klinger said that the university commits to providing prevailing wages to all workers who participate in any on-campus construction.
Tyson Stuber, a representative of Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said the union has followed Ron Rust Drywall for at least a decade, and what they have found out about the company is unsettling.
“[It’s] a contractor that has been driving down wages for carpenter craft workers for many years. When companies like Ron Rust continuously undercut wage standards they contribute to the downward spiral and deterioration of wage standards,” his statement read.
Stuber accused the company of not paying its workers “standard area wage” and failing to provide them benefit packages. Stuber said with a project as big as a 500-bed residence hall, at least 50 workers will be underpaid under Ron Rust Drywall.
The union’s concern about a construction company not paying its workers at other projects is “outside of the university,” Klinger said.
Stuber said the union has tried to contact the university since June, when the bid process happened, to no avail. Klinger said that the university did respond to the union during the time the bid was rewarded.
The university contracted a Portland-based company, Walsh Construction, as the main contractor for the project. While Walsh Construction gets to decide which subcontractor will be chosen for the construction, the university has the final say in the bid process.
Standing in the rain on the morning of Oct. 5, Indell said the union will continue to protest until the university gives them a satisfying response.
“Rain or shine, we’ll be here,” Indell said. “We’ll be here until the university responds to us.”