A contractor for a BNSF administration building on the intermodal site is the subject of a local protest.
Laborers from the Unified Brotherhood of Carpenters daily sit beside a large sign stationed near the Gardner Road exit to Interstate 35. The sign reads, “Shame on Crossland Construction.”
Ed Rousch, a union member from Hillsdale, said the company has a history of unfair labor practices.
“They don’t pay a prevailing wage,” Rousch said.
He said despite Gov. Sam Browback’s claims that the intermodal project would add Kansas jobs, Rousch said many of the employees on the project don’t live in Kansas. Instead, they’re flown in from other states.
“There’s so many people out of work,” Rousch said. “Even the Governor said there’d be lots of Kansas jobs. There’s no Kansas jobs out here.”
Although there’s no evidence Crossland Construction isn’t following federal laws at the intermodal, Dave Wilson, a spokesperson for the labor union, said Crossland has established a pattern of behavior in other projects in the Kansas City Metro.
For example, Crossland Construction hired a sub-contractor, EPI, for a project near the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. After an investigation, Crossland’s subcontractor was ordered to pay $250,000 in back wages for violating federal law.
“We’re communicating this with the public out there to let everyone know about Crossland’s behavior,” Wilson said.
The mild protest, which includes a large sign and a few people at a time, has been ongoing in Gardner for more than a week. There are similar displays near other Crossland Construction work sites.
Because the intermodal project received a $35 million subsidy from the state, BNSF agreed that contractors hired for the project would receive the standard or prevailing wages set by the government.
“We are going to keep a close eye on that project,” Wilson said. “Crossland, in our opinion, is picking contractors that have violated federal labor law. When contractors are allowed to get away with these things, it puts competitors who play by the rules at a competitive disadvantage.”
A spokesperson for Crossland, Dennis Burns, said the construction company has no comment on the protests near its job sites.
However, he said the company and its contractors follow the law at the intermodal sites and in other communities where they do business.
“Everything is in order as it always is,” Burns said.