A few Nashville trade unions are staging a rally Thursday morning to call attention to what they contend is a lack of local jobs created by the ongoing construction of the city’s $585 million convention center.
But Music City Center officials say local representation on the workforce isn’t an issue, pointing out the project has even involved several local unions. Union protestors are simply upset, officials argue, because they’re not working on the project themselves.
The rally is set to begin at 10 a.m. outside the downtown Metro Courthouse. Members of local trade unions — the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council, the Operating Engineers Local Union 369 and the Cement Masons Local Union 909 — are convening before marching to the 16-acre Music City Center construction site where they will hold an informational picket and lunch. Organizers say a few hundred people are expected to attend the rally.
“This project was promoted as ‘Nashville’s stimulus,’ but there are too few paychecks going to Nashville families,” Matthew Capece of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America said in a written statement issued in a news release.
“Nashville taxpayers are footing the bill for the convention center,” he added. “If local businesses and workers are good enough to pay for it, aren’t they not good enough to build it?”
Holly McCall, spokeswoman for the Convention Center Authority, called local job creation/economic stimuli a “fair thing to talk about.”
“But when you’re looking at only three unions complaining, this is not about local jobs. This is about jobs for those three unions,” McCall said.
According to McCall, local unions either already working or set to work on Music City Center include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 429; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 572; International Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86; International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 93; Painters and Glaziers Local 456; and Iron Workers Local 492.
In all, she said 50 percent of the Music City Center’s total workforce during the three-year construction project is likely to be union members.
“Honestly, it is a slap in the face to their brothers in other local trade unions who have worked really hard to put hundreds of people out here,” McCall said.
One year into Music City Center’s construction, McCall said 29 construction packages have been awarded to subcontractors, 19 of which have gone to Davidson County companies.
She said she did not know what percentage of Music City Center construction jobs would go to Nashvillians because several contractors have not started working at the site yet.