Saying they were frustrated by years of stagnant wages during one of the biggest construction booms the DC region has ever experienced, Baker DC concrete workers and hundreds of supporters went on strike at a luxury residential construction job site Wednesday.
The workers are seeking a pay raise and union recognition. They were also protesting what they say are a number of unfair labor practices undertaken by Baker DC against some of its employees.
Construction was shut down and traffic snarled during the morning rush hour at 5333 Connecticut Ave., NW, a project already controversial with many adjacent residents.
Baker DC is a prominent concrete contractor in the Washington metro area that has benefitted from the regionâ€™s construction boom. The firmâ€™s portfolio of projects includes the prestigious Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel and Progression Place, both of which were subsidized by District residentsâ€™ taxpayer dollars.
At the same time, Baker DCâ€™s concrete laborers start at $13 per hour and earn less than $20,000 per year, have no employer-paid retirement benefits, and are offered a health care plan with what the workers say are exorbitant premiums. Their wages have fallen well behind the cost of living in the Washington metro area, which has increased by 33 percent over the past 15 years, workers say.
â€œConcrete companies like Baker DC are taking advantage of the large supply of labor in the Washington area to keep wages low,â€ said Dennis L. Martire, Vice President and General Manager of LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic Region. â€œThe workers at Baker DC have recognized that this exploitation will not change unless they unite and demand better pay.â€
The stagnant wages of Washington area concrete workers are particularly alarming given the dangerous and physical nature of the job, Martire said. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 percent of concrete workers get hurt or sick on the job every year, and the typical recovery time is 10 days.