SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Construction workers in the South Bay hit the streets to urge developers to “do the right thing” and hire local.
This problem may be part of a larger trend.
Union construction workers filled the sidewalks, in a line stretching several blocks.
They marched past a series of downtown San Jose high-rise buildings, some recently opened, others just getting started. Buildings constructed without their help.
Electrician Robert Gil said, “The non-union is just taking over.”
Gil supports his wife and six kids as a union electrician.
“They’re doing everything for cut-rate prices,” Gil said. “They’re cutting our throats. It’s not right.”
The protest targeted Cupertino-based developer and builder, KT Urban, which currently has the Silvery Towers luxury condominium project under construction near San Pedro Square.
Union leaders say it’s using non-union workers for one simple reason.
Ben Fields with the South Bay Labor Council said, “It’s greed. It’s pure and simple greed. They can afford to share the wealth. They ought to be paying decent wages and benefits and they’re not doing it.”
Contacted by phone KT Urban said, “No comment.”
But workers say it’s part of a trend — hiring workers from the Central Valley and in some cases out of state — workers who will accept less than half of what San Jose-based union workers are paid.
Union electrician Sean Bearsby said, “You start off as a first year apprentice at $25.66 an hour. And in non-union, you’re starting out a little over minimum wage.”
And that doesn’t include benefits.
Union workers are afraid they’ll eventually be priced out of Silicon Valley.
“If you’re trying to help build the middle class, give us a fair shake,” Gil said. “Let us at least bid on this work.”