Picketing Omni Hotel construction workers agree to return to wor - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Picketing Omni Hotel construction workers agree to return to work

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Construction workers for the Omni Hotel project in downtown Louisville upset about what they're calling unfair wages protested for a second straight day Thursday, but have agreed to return to work. 

About 100 immigrant workers walked off the job Wednesday, claiming they're not being paid the same wages as other people doing the same job. They were out in force again Thursday, joined by supporters from the community. 

Jim Smith, a Louisville attorney representing Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractor building the hotel, says the workers are being paid about $24 an hour according to a schedule of benchmark construction wages maintained by the federal government.

That rate hasn't changed since the project began, he said. The workers are employed by PCC, a drywall subcontractor to Brasfield & Gorrie, he said.

David Suetholz, a labor attorney helping the workers, says they have a right under federal law to come together and demand a conversation with their employer about their wages, but he says they have already been threatened by management. 

The workers are not unionized, but they are supported by the Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Local 175, said Antonio Ramos, a business representative with the union. 

Smith said Thursday the Kentucky Labor Cabinet in early 2015 instructed the contractor to pay according to federal benchmark because the state's schedule of prevailing wages did not apply to the Omni project -- a contention that is backed up by the Human Relations Commission decision.   

But the local carpenters union, which does not represent the workers, argued before the commission that all carpenters on the Omni project should have wages of at least $23.55 in cash and $16.46 in benefits.

The workers agreed Thursday to return to the job on Friday at the same wages, but a majority of them have expressed a desire to join the carpenter's union, Suetholz said. 

The workers will attempt to establish a bargaining unit so that they can negotiate wages as a group, Suetholz said. 

In March, Omni contractors and consultants hosted a job fair at the Kentucky Career Center looking to fill 300 open positions. 

The hotel is scheduled to open before the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

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