On Friday, May 25th, two courageous construction workers, Jorge and Omar (seated, left), gathered a bunch of friends in a rented meeting room at the Wingate Hotel on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas. They had solid support from the Ironworkers Union, Brown Berets, International Socialist Organization, Workers Defense Project, OUR Walmart, MoveOn, Occupy Dallas, and North Texas Jobs with Justice. The group numbered 42 as Omar and Jorge began explaining, through a translator, about working conditions at D'Ambra Steel.
Both men tie rebar, the steel rods that reinforce new concrete pours, at the Parkland Hospital's new construction site. They complained of having no water, no insurance, and no job benefits. These sorry conditions had led them to start a workers' strike on the site. Channel 8 TV, a professional photographer, and a half dozen of us amateurs covered the story. Bucky Fuller's video will be at http://www.facebook.com/bucky.fuller.9.
Jorge told about his wife's stage 4 cancer and urgent need for treatment. He has no insurance, and he needed a letter from management to get a doctor. Management delayed the letter for an obscene period. He needs another letter now, and they still aren't coming through!
Working hours at D'Ambra can be very long. Jorge and Omar told of working from 7 AM to 10 or 11 PM with only their 30-minute lunch break. Supervisors make it very difficult for workers to even go to the bathroom, they said.
Neither of the two workers knew anything about workers' comp for injured employees, but they were sure that D'Ambra doesn't offer it, because people who are hurt on the job are often never seen there again! Jorge said that they are, "Kicked off to the side."
The general conditions for unorganized construction workers in Texas is a disgrace, according to Ironworker organizer Adrian Magallanes and researchers from the Workers Defense Project. They agreed that a construction worker in Texas dies every 2 1/2 days! The Latinos are the most likely to be unorganized and the most likely to suffer injury or death on the job.
After the initial meeting, Omar and Jorge led the group by car caravan to the construction site, but no one from D'Ambra came to discuss matters. Fortunately, the Parkland Hospital Board is not indifferent to the way that subcontractors treat their employees on Parkland sites. After a long wait in the hallway, the big delegation had an audience with Dr. Jennifer Cutrer, Director of Public Affairs. The Director of Facilities and two secretaries sat in quietly. Delegates expressed our concern about the treatment of the employees and Dr. Cutrer said she will investigate and get back to Omar and Jorge.
The strikers and their supporters felt that this initial stage of their struggle went well.