JD Steel responds to ironworker rallies

JD Steel responds to ironworker rallies
Ironworkers have held rallies to protest hiring practices at Springhill Suites Marriott since February. President of subcontractor JD Steel said the midsize job would not have gone to organized labor. Cary Newton, president of JD Steel, calls claims of bad onsite practices "absurd." Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Since construction of Springhill Suites Marriott started in January, California ironworkers have walked off the job and held rallies off and on from the second month of building. 

Complaints of union ironworkers have ranged from not paying prevailing local wage, to not hiring local workers, and bad on-site practices, but Cary Newton, president of the project subcontractor JD Steel, calls the claims “absurd.”

Newton said the real issue is that union ironworkers get a very small share of the small-to-midsize job market that includes work on buildings six stories and under.

“This job would not have gone to organized labor,” he said. “The second place bid was an open shop (nonunion) company.”

He added the leading job market for union shops is government projects that receive additional funding for hiring union workers.

The Springhill Suites Marriott project is a private hotel build. Newton declined to speculate on the effects of Oceanside’s charter city laws that do not require union workers to be hired on city building projects.

Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, who oppose the adopted city charter, were at the February ironworkers rally in support of hiring California union workers.

Newton said about 10 men were hired for the Springhill Suites Marriott project including key personnel from Arizona, where the JD Steel Company is based, and about five California ironworkers that the company has built relationships with from previous jobs.

Newton describes the California ironworkers’ walk off in February when the rallies started as workers being “encouraged to leave the job (by the union).” He said JD Steel offered those specific employees other work in Arizona.

In reply to complaints voiced at the February rally including the subcontractor not providing drinking water, safety equipment or paying earned overtime, Newton said these allegations are “false” and distractions from the real issue of union workers securing little work in the small-to-midsize market.

In response to the market imbalance Newton said he sent an email to the president of the District Council of Iron Workers of California in October 2012 before work on the Springhill Suites Marriott began with a proposed agreement to hire union workers. The district council president did not reply.

Newton said after work on the project began, an Alameda, Calif. law firm representing state ironworkers sent a letter to JD Steel, but no labor law complaints were sustained against the company. He added that complaints were filed and dropped before JD Steel had an opportunity to address them.

Newton said the letter included a request for “standard wages” and listed “false” complaints. He added that “standard” is arguable since standards vary greatly and complaints in the letter did not have merit.

Newton said JD Steel is an employee stock ownership company that has worked in California since 1970.

“We follow hiring practices and state law,” he said.

Newton added the letter demanded an “all or nothing” solution to hiring union ironworkers. He said a “hybrid creative agreement” is needed to hire union workers on small-to-midsize jobs.



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