Wearing orange and yellow vests, a handful of advocates for fair employment and workers’ safety gathered at The Arrow Apartments Monday to protest alleged ongoing issues with workers’ safety and construction at the student apartments.
The North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, which helped organized the protest, is participating in national protests against what they name “tax fraud” against workers in the construction industry. Advocates said they chose to protest at The Arrow after hearing of repeated concerns with workers’ safety and construction practices at the building.
“It is a poster child for bad employment practices and the repercussions for the community and what happens afterwards,” said Adam Duininck, director of government affairs with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
The carpenter union’s protest flyer reads that “contractors at Prime Place/Arrow were subjected to Construction Industry tax fraud: workers were paid off-the-books, not paid time-and-one half for overtime, workers compensation premiums were not paid on all workers, and workers were misclassified as ‘independent contractors,’ thereby avoiding payroll taxes and benefits.'”
Duininck said the main reason for the protest was to raise awareness of tax fraud in the construction industry, a practice he describes as “an organized effort to undermine the basic employee-employer relationship [to] help somebody make a lot more money than they deserve.”
Protesters at the event said ongoing concerns with construction and workers' wellbeing at The Arrow prompted them to protest, including an incident in September when three workers to the hospital after installing carpeting in the building. One worker said he was still feeling sick more than six months after installing the carpeting, which was found to contain potentially hazardous chemical levels.
In November 2017, inspections initiated by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades council found numerous construction and fire code violations in the ongoing construction project. The apartments rebranded from Prime Place to The Arrow two months after.
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha, a workers’ advocacy group in the Twin Cities with representatives at the protest, plans to hold a teach-in about labor trafficking in Minnesota construction at the University in late April to gauge student concerns about housing.
“You’re so busy being involved and doing things [as a student] you don’t think about, ‘Oh I lived in this house, but who actually built this and what kind of labor built this?” said CTUL’s ally and logistics organizer Luna Gebriel.
Merle Payne, CTUL’s co-director, said the group knows of ongoing discontent among University students with their housing.
“We know there’s been more and more discontent among students about housing, nothing in a super organized fashion,” Payne said. “But then people hear about the fact that people are getting sick installing carpeting, and there’s really horrific conditions building the student housing around here, [and] it adds to the fuel. Not only are workers getting screwed, but we’ve got bad housing.”
A representative from The Arrow Apartments declined to comment.