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Despite Unemployment Rising in 54 of 55 WV Counties in June, Marriott Contractors are Employing Out-of-State Construction Workers

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In Charleston, West Virginia, construction of a new Courtyard Marriott is employing non-union, out-of-state workers and project developers are making it next to impossible for union contractors to bid on the work. Meanwhile, a half mile down the road, the construction of a Ramada Inn is being done by an exclusively union workforce.  The end result? A serious wage disparity.

Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, told the Sunday Gazette-Mail, “Some of those guys at the Courtyard [by] Marriott are making only one-third of the money that our folks would be making.”

Construction of the Courtyard Marriott is being funded by private investors, VIM Inc., and therefore is not bound by prevailing wage laws that govern projects which use state or federal funding.  But many area workers feel VIM should allow local workers to compete for jobs on the project. Mike Matthews, business manager for the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council (CBCTC), touched on this:

“If the Courtyard can take our law enforcement, fire protection and civil services paid by our taxes, they should hire our people at a livable wage.”

For others in the region’s trades, the issue is more business oriented. Steve White discussed how unions can compete for private projects because of their efficiency:

“The owner has no obligation to let anyone bid, but that would just be good business,” White said. “We compete all the time on private jobs. We make more money because we are more productive.

“Our guys can produce three times as much as many other workers. That is how we stay in business. We do private jobs all the time. We do work on banks, hospitals and office buildings.”

Yet, it seems VIM Inc. has no desire to allow unions on their work site.  Many labor leaders, such as M. Scott Brewer from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, say the Courtyard Marriot has taken a radio silence approach:

I tried to get a union contractor involved in bidding on the Courtyard [by] Marriott project,” Brewer said, “but I could never get a return call.”

“Local folks should have an opportunity to work. The vast majority of work on the Courtyard [by] Marriott has not begun yet.”

The Gazette-Mail describes a wholly segregated workplace:

Today, the construction site has separate entrances for union and nonunion contract workers.

The “Union Gate,” on Virginia Street, is reserved for workers employed by: Brewer & Co. of WV, Berkel & Co., Essore & Co., Raynes & Co., Shindler Elevator Corp. and West Virginia Paving.

“All other persons are prohibited from using this entrance,” the sign states.

The “Non-Union Gate,” on Kanawha Boulevard, is the entrance for workers employed by: Venture LLC, VIC of WV, McTech, Hi Tech Electric Inc., Cross Construction Co., Carpet Doctor, Mr. Roofer and Adams Tile and Stucco.

No matter how hard they try to keep unions out, Steven White explains that eventually the Courtyard Marriott will have to employ some union workers due to the nature of the business.  He estimates 10 to 15 percent of the work will be completed by unionized employees:

“Jobs like site preparation, paving and installing sprinklers and elevators - which are unionized - will be done by local businesses, because they need to use heavy equipment at the site. VIM of WV really doesn’t have any choice.

“But contractors doing electrical work, plumbing, heating, drywalling, roofing and painting are likely to come from other states.”

The use of out-of-state workers should be an unacceptable practice considering West Virginia’s bout with unemployment. In June, unemployment rates rose in 54 of the state’s 55 counties.


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