Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 8, 2011

Picketers protest wages, safety issues at building site

Bricklayers union threatens larger actions against Safeway

by Glenn Wohltmann

Members of the bricklayers union were out at the crack of dawn last Thursday protesting what they said were poor pay and inadequate safety measures for construction workers at the building site of the new Safeway "Lifestyle" store at Bernal and Valley avenues.

"D.L. Masonry does not meet area wage and standards. They're not a union company," said Troy Garland, a representative of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts Local 3. "There are safety issues as well."

He said workers at the site are not wearing respirators when needed and that there are problems with scaffolding.

"We take safety concerns very seriously," said Safeway Spokeswoman Susan M. Houghton. "We will take that up immediately with our contractor." Houghton could not be reached about whether any safety issues were found.

About a dozen union members walked a picket line on Bernal Avenue where trucks enter and leave the construction site, alongside a 10-foot-tall inflatable rat bearing the sign "simply unfair."

Garland said while Safeway stores themselves are largely unionized, many of the companies it hires for construction and other work are not.

"We'd like Safeway to hire good local contractors," he said.

Houghton said, though, that choosing a contractor is more about picking the right vendor for the project than guaranteeing union jobs at each construction site.

"We do a very thorough and competitive bid process," she said. "On a typical construction site you're going to see a mix of union and non-union vendors."

Garland said Greg Feere, CEO of the Contra Costa Building Trades Council, is in discussions with Safeway about the local issue, as well as similar ones in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.

Garland later explained that, "If Safeway does not improve on the contractors they hire there will probably be more actions taken against them by different organizations throughout the Bay Area."

D.L. Masonry could not be reached for comment.

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