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Non-Union Omni Laborers Continue Strike, Claiming Unfair Pay

About 100 non-union workers at the Omni Hotel construction site are continuing a strike Thursday. The issue: wage inequality.

At 6 a.m., protesters — in solidarity with the workers who walked off — started lining up on 3rd and Muhammad Ali. By 7 a.m., workers filled up three corners of the intersection.

Luis Estrada held a sign with the words "ON STRIKE" written in red.

"Well this is a special job and it’s $24 an hour for hanging drywall and framing," said Estrada.

But he said other workers — represented by a union — were making more on the same job.

"Almost double, between $40 and $45 by hour," he said.

Marco Cruz is another non-union worker on the site. Cruz believes the project’s subcontractor is taking advantage of a vulnerable population. 

"Because they know the drywall, metal framing and the finish…most of the jobs is made by Latin people, immigrants, and I think they take advantage of it," he said.  

That subcontractor is PCC, under general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie. 

Once the non-unionized workers knew they were being paid less, 60 men showed up at a meeting with labor attorney David Suetholz. 

"There’s this thing called the National Labor Relations Act and you're actually protected under federal law if you come together and petition your employer to address your concerns," said Suetholz. "You can’t suffer reprisal."

Van Leckie is a union iron worker at the site and is showing solidarity with the striking workers.

"And we’re not gonna cross this picket line because we know that if all workers don’t go to this job that they’ll have to settle with these people," Leckie said. "They have time schedules that they have to meet, so that’s our strength — is holding them to their schedule and keeping them from messing these people over." 

Workers are waiting to continue talks with Brasfield & Gorrie for an agreement.

The company said in a statement that workers are employed by a subcontractor, and that wage rates were established at the beginning of the project and are appropriate.

The Omni is set to open in 2018.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.

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