Community comes together to urge school board to stop wage theft

A group of construction workers, along with parents, teachers and community leaders came together at a local school board meeting to demand the school board address an on-going issue that had affected working people. They called on the director of schools to find solutions at a meeting on November 12.

The rally took place at the Metro Nashville Public School offices on Bransford Drive in Nashville. Construction workers, with support from Workers Dignity and the Metro Nashville Education Association came to the meeting demanding that Metro Schools Director Dr. Adrienne Battle and school board members address the issue of ‘wage theft’ by financially compensating the workers for the renovation work that was done at McMurray Middle School during the summer. According to a press release, Armando Arzate and other construction workers were hired to do renovation work that included work on sidewalks, adding new ramps and other projects. The press release also said that Metro Nashville Public Schools contracted the work with Orion Building Corporation to oversee the project, which was then subcontracted to Joe Haas Construction Company for other small jobs. When the work was completed in May, Arzate and his construction team were seeking $43,000 for work they claimed they were owed.

The construction workers, along with support from organizations such as Workers Dignity, had made every attempt to contact the offices of Dr. Battle and Chief Operations Officer Chris Henson. But they denied any responsibility for the problems the workers were having with Haas Construction or Orion Building Corporation. When the problem was addressed in a school board meeting on November 10, School Board member Rachel Elrod, whose district included McMurray Middle School, said that more leadership was needed in the contract process on school construction and that she wanted more accountability.

“It is a mark of shame on that school that it is beautiful but at the cost of other people,” Elrod said. “It is unfortunate and hard to think about a parent that is having to take their child into a school that they helped build but then are not paid for appropriately.”

Dr. Battle announced in a school board meeting on December 10 that there was a breakthrough in the fight for workers to recover the money they are owed. She called on Orion construction to find a solution to pay the workers for the money.