The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 45      November 17, 2008

Bosses fail to block
carpenters’ fight in S.F.
(front page)
SAN FRANCISCO—Black and Latino construction workers won a victory for workers and democratic rights here October 22. A California Superior Court judge denied a construction company’s request for injunctions that would have blocked carpenters and community leaders from assembling at job sites in the Hunters Point neighborhood to protest unsafe working conditions.

Rubecon General Contracting, Inc. went to court after some 150 workers stopped working at the Shoreview apartments in early October. The workers, who are mostly African Americans and Latinos, cited unsafe conditions at one rehabbing site, extortion of immigrant workers’ pay, and—by the second day of the work stoppage—the firing of Gregory Hall and Will Hall.

Longtime members of the Carpenters Union, Greg Hall was the foreman for Rubecon at the job site and Will Hall was the field superintendent. The Halls are African Americans. Greg Hall is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Latino and Black carpenters that seeks an end to racist, discriminatory abuses at construction sites.

The workers have waged a fight since spring 2007 that has forged unity between Latino and Black carpenters. As a result, many of the worst abuses were curtailed in May of this year when the Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO) brought in Rubecon to replace other rehabbing contractors.

But in recent months, Latino carpenters reported that the bosses were extorting money from their pay—sometimes hundreds of dollars a week. Shoreview Residents Association president Dorothy Peterson reported that subcontractor Bay Area Construction Framers had an inexperienced crew installing windows, working from 30-foot ladders, without scaffolding.

When AIMCO and Rubecon management refused to remedy the situation, Peterson told the Militant, she and two Latino carpenters gathered on October 2 at the Shoreview job site, explained to workers what was happening, and urged that work cease until the unsafe conditions were ended and the extortion halted. The site was shut down. Greg Hall and Will Hall were then fired by Rubecon. Sixty other carpenters were laid off.

In a scurrilous letter to Carpenters Local 22 on October 3, Rubecon president Ruben Santana blamed the Halls “for disrupting our Union project” and falsely charged that “the [October 2] protest caused by Will and Greg was violent.” Santana also falsely asserted that on October 3 the Halls got Rubecon employees “to organize themselves as an angry mob, to incite a riot, and not go to work.”

On October 9, despite city cops arriving on the scene, carpenters successfully appealed to workers who had entered the job site to stop work. Discussion of the issues ensued through a chain-link fence and in some cases workers came out of the site. After about three hours, with little work taking place, and with Local 22 officials assuring carpenters that they were pursuing grievances on the firings and willing to pursue complaints against the extortion, most workers who were not laid off returned to work.

At the October 22 court hearing, Rubecon boss Azalia Merrell and attorney Jessica Chylik falsely charged Will Hall and Dorothy Peterson with organizing an anti-Latino “riot” on October 2 and 3 and asked for a restraining order that would bar the two from the area near the construction site. Peterson and Hall refuted the charges. Judge William Gargano denied Rubecon’s request, citing no “clear and convincing evidence.”  
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