Unions representing ironworkers, electricians, painters, sprinkler-fitters and other construction workers filed a lawsuit today in Superior Court against one of Los Angeles’ largest developers, Thomas Gilmore and Associates, for unfair business practices and violating labor laws. Two dozen of Gilmore’s partners and sub-contactors in the El Dorado and Rowan loft conversion projects in the 400 block of South Spring Street were also named in the lawsuit.
The head of Ironworkers Local 433, Robbie Hunter, said other developers are working with unions to change the face of downtown. “Unfortunately, Gilmore has decided to run this like a third-world operation – paying employees cash under the table, hiring unskilled workers who aren’t qualified, ignoring Workers’ Compensation, cheating local kids out of apprenticeships,” Hunter said.
Marvin Kropke, Business Manager for Local 11 of the electrical workers’ union, IBEW, added that the City of Los Angeles has given developers significant economic incentives for private for-profit projects. “Taxpayers financed these projects, but employers like those on this project think its okay to avoid paying taxes by paying workers in cash,” Kropke said.
The lawsuit also alleges that Gilmore and his subcontractors have failed to pay prevailing wages or overtime, or provide meal and rest periods as required by law. As a result, they have underbid law-abiding competitors and put employees’ and the public’s health at risk.
“We all know construction work is hard,” said Jim Irwin, an organizer with District Council 36 of the painters’ union, “but making people work under unsafe conditions means unnecessary risks. What does it cost them to make sure employees stripping lead-based paint or removing asbestos have respirators? Almost nothing. Over the years, though, we pay with our lives.”