Every week since July, students and passersby on the corner of Mills Avenue and Ninth Street have encountered members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 11. Bearing a banner that reads “Claremont McKenna College Cheats the Community,” the union members are protesting CMC’s hiring of subcontractor Land Mark Electric (LME) for the construction of the Roberts Pavilion, a fitness and events center set to open in 2016.
The union claims that LME, a non-union contractor, fails to meet “area labor standards” and that CMC must hold itself responsible for hiring only contractors who meet these standards.
Patrick Stewart, the director of labor relations at IBEW Local 11, wrote in an email to TSL that LME is not fairly compensating its workers.
“Area labor standards are the wages and benefits provided to electrical craft employees and their families by responsible contractors,” Stewart wrote. “Land Mark has failed to meet the area labor standards by not fully paying for pension and healthcare to all of its employees and their families on all projects.”
IBEW’s demonstrations have concerned Sara-Rose Bockian CM ’17, who often runs on the track next to the construction site.
“When I saw the giant sign that was condemning CMC, first I was really offended because I go to that school, and I want my school to have a good reputation,” Bockian said.
However, Bockian said that she thinks CMC should facilitate ethical working conditions for all workers on the campus.
According to a statement provided to TSL by CMC Associate Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Max Benavidez, the general contractor, PCL Construction Services, is responsible for hiring “appropriate and qualified” subcontractors based on criteria such as quality and cost. According to the statement, the college does not require that PCL select union contractors nor does it discriminate against union contractors.
The statement continues that 70 percent of subcontractors hired are union members and 60 percent of the Roberts Pavilion project’s cost is spent on union subcontractors.
“The College respects IBEW’s labor activities, and will not seek to interfere with their activities so long as they remain peaceful and do not disturb or disrupt the members of our community,” according to the statement. Benavidez declined to answer further questions.
Lloyd Saitman, the CEO of Land Mark Electric, said that the union’s protest against LME is an attempt to compete for work. Non-union contractors are dominating the workforce because they are able to offer lower prices than many union contractors, he said.
He added that his business focuses on employees’ merit and that his workers are promoted based on hard work rather than a collective bargaining agreement. According to Saitman, all his employees earn significantly more than minimum wage in addition to receiving medical insurance and a 401(k) plan.
Because LME is not unionized, Saitman said that he can provide services to clients at a cheaper price, helping LME both grow as a business and “[take] care of more workers and their families.”
PCL Construction Services, the general contractor, declined to comment.
According to Stewart, the cost of living in the Los Angeles area has skyrocketed in the last decade, while wages for many people have not reflected this change. Stewart wrote that it is critical that electrical workers continue to be paid middle-class wages in order for them to maintain a good standard of living today.