SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - On Tuesday night, the San Jose City Council approved demolishing a Greyhound bus station in downtown to make way for high-rise condos. The approval comes with controversy as city union workers claim the developer is planning to hire outside help to cut costs.
Labor leaders said the developer has a history of using non-union workers on other projects in San Jose. They’re demanding the developer hire local and pay workers fair wages.
Dozens of building trade workers rallied in front of City Hall fighting for middle class jobs heading into council chambers with a message.
“It’s great to have a building boom but we need a piece of this work here also. we need to get some of our local workers to get some of this work,” said Al Gonzales, Jr. who represents UA Local Union 93.
Their concern is the destruction of the greyhound bus station on South Almaden Road. It will be replaced with a 23-story high-rise project complete with 700 condos and retail space.
Union workers said the developer of the project Cupertino-based KT Urban has a reputation of hiring non-union employees from out of the area for less pay for $15 to $30 an hour. According to the unions, a fair wage for a plumber in San Jose is $55 an hour.
“It’s not fair,” said Gonzales. “It's not right.. We live in this community. A lot of these guys grew up here. They should have the first shot at these projects, said Gonzales.
At the San Jose City Council meeting, they made their voices heard. Labor leaders said KT Urban also has a history of supporting a subcontractor that has engaged in wage theft. Mayor Sam Liccardo said the city has zero tolerance for that .
“We’re not in a good position to know whether the accusations about wage theft are true or not but what we can do is exactly what we plan to do,” said Liccardo. “Any subcontractors who have a history of wage theft violations from getting onto this project.”
Council members said they can't force labor agreements on private properties and KT Urban is one of few high rise developers expressing interest in building in San Jose. Still, union workers want reassurance jobs won't go elsewhere.
“I was raised in San Jose,” said Jeffrey Dreyer who is a plumbing foreman. “We want this city to have integrity and dignity and to build it without that is not leading by example.”
KT Urban declined KTVU’s request for an interview but did show up at Tuesday’s meeting and disputed claims they are opposed to hiring local workers. The developer also agreed to not use subcontractors who have a record of violating wage theft laws.