Exploitation continues, reinforcing ironworker’s fight

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

African Americans know only too well the bitter taste of centuries of exploitation and iniquities by oppressors who profited financially from our toil and pain. The wealth of many big name businesses and well known prominent White American families can be traced to the toil and sweat from free slave labor.

America has prospered abundantly with little concern if any to compensate the children of former slaves from blatant exploitation and practiced discrimination. African Americans are at an immeasurable economical disadvantage. This deliberate practice of abuse is nothing new to people of color. Native Indians were abused, exploited and relegated to reservations despite original attempts to befriend and aid their European visitors.

You would think that efforts to remedy past heinous practices would be prioritized in building a more united and equitable America. However, the bitter taste of wrongdoing continues to be targeted closer to home towards Middle Tennessee Reinforcing Ironworkers, also known as Rodbusters. These workers are responsible for the gruesome and laborious job of using steel to reinforce concrete in numerous building projects taking place in Middle Tennessee. These workers are soliciting the community for support in combating employers (K&D, LLC, Gilley Construction, Vickers Concrete Reinforcing, and T&T Steel Erectors) whom they feel are complicit in harboring hostile working environments devoid of benefits and human dignity.

Some of the workers have gone on strike and are sharing their stories and experiences with the public, hoping to secure support to gain justice. Strikers, such as Jason Reece, Stephon Eckles, Heather Eckles, and Celedonio Ayala are enlightening the public, who as taxpayers fund some of these projects. These workers are adamant in their quest to bring light to the public about their experiences and knowledge in the ongoing exploitation of Reinforcing Ironworkers.

Some of the abuse is associated with long 18-hour working days, unsafe working conditions, low wages for dangerous grueling work, lack of benefits, and verbal and psychological abuse by foremen. There are little or no regard for safety or safe conditions to and in the working sites. These concerns resonate in all stories told or heard. We are referring to lack of seat belts in company vehicles, clean drinking water, and preventable injuries or death while working.

The pay of $14 or $15 an hour doesn’t compensate for the hard, dangerous work done and is not enough to support Reinforcing Ironworker families. This treatment is nothing short of cruel and inhumane and shouldn’t be condoned by their employers who are comfortably compensated.

Communities, social groups, and religious leaders should be supportive in helping to insure that these workers be treated with respect and offered the amenities due to any human being. The Reinforcing Ironworker’s fight for justice should be inclusive of all people interested in doing what is inherently right. Apathy and acquiescence should not be an option. If the Ironworkers lose, we all lose. I would like to believe that we are a community working to alleviate the ever-present vestiges of oppression, exploitation and injustice. Supporting the Reinforcing Ironworkers shouldn’t be an option.