Heated Jobs Protest at DHS Headquarters Project

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    NEWSLETTERS

    News 4's Tom Sherwood has more on a large group of angry workers protesting against contractors not hiring locally.

    Protesters upset with the number of District residents working on the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters at St. Elizabeths Hospital got heated after noon Wednesday, News4’s Tom Sherwood reported.

    A local labor union perceives the number of hours worked on the $3.4 billion project by D.C. residents to be too low, The Washington Post reported. The union disputes numbers offered by Clark Construction and the General Services Administration that as of July, 36 percent of the 741 workers hired to work on the project have been D.C. residents. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition of Laborers’ International Union of North America puts the ratio at 13.62 percent of the hours logged working on the project by D.C. residents from December 2009 to May 2011.

    D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has sided with Clark, The Post reported.

    Norton said the District simply does not have enough qualified construction workers to perform more of the work. Even if only 17 percent of hours are going to District residents, she said, that is likely a much higher ratio than the portion of area construction journeymen that reside in the District.

    Hundreds participated in Wednesday’s protest in the 2600 block of Firth Sterling Avenue SE, near the former St. Elizabeths Hospital, Sherwood reported. Many said they’re ready to start working on the project today.

    Federal police tried to keep the demonstrators away from the construction entrance while the demonstrators tried to block construction vehicles.

    At a community meeting in Ward 8 Tuesday night, Norton said more than 36 percent of the workers on the job right now are D.C. residents. For the length of the project, 26 percent of the workers onsite have been from D.C., logging just more than 20 percent of the hours worked. Norton attributed the difference in percentage to the fact that some trades work longer than others due to weather and daylight.

    "These figures are far better than is generally found for D.C. residents employed on construction sites in the District of Columbia, but we will continue working for more jobs for D.C. residents,” Norton said.

    The federal government can't require a set percentage of work on a federal project goes to a specific jurisdiction, Norton said, but it does encourage projects to hire from the jurisdiction where the project exists.

    In response to the protest, the private contractors set up a site where protesters could apply for jobs.