Preston - Dozens of union tradesmen picketed a hotel construction site on Route 2 this morning, calling attention to the practices of contractors they claim fail to pay nonunion workers wages that are in line with "area standards."
The picketers began demonstrating about 10 a.m., erecting inflatable figures and carrying signs saying, "Geo Construction Does Not Conform to Area Standards for Wage and Fringe Benefits."
Geo Construction, which specializes in metal framing and drywall work, is based in Manchester, N.H.
Reached later in the day, a Geo vice president said he had never been contacted by union representatives.
"I would have loved to have had a phone call," Michael Bolduc said. "We could have gone golfing and talked about it instead of them jumping the gun."
Bolduc said he's paying his nonunion workers on the Preston project $30 an hour.
"Who makes the standard?" he said. "From what I know, my guys are happy to get up and come to work."
Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which organized the demonstration, said the picketing was not intended to disrupt work at the site, nor was it for organizational purposes.
"We're out here to protect both union and nonunion workers," Chris Bachant, an organizer with the council, said. "When a contractor doesn't pay benefits or the standard wage, it hurts the legitimate contractors who do - they can't compete in the bidding process."
Marc Okun, another council organizer, said the prevailing wage for carpenters in the area, including fringe benefits, is more than $49 an hour.
Prevailing wages only apply to government contracts.
The hotel being built at the Preston site on Watson Road, which is about a mile from Foxwoods Resort Casino, will be a Hilton Garden Inn, John Levantino, the project's Texas-based general contractor, said.
Work at the site began in December and should be completed this fall, he said.
"I think everyone has a right to express their opinion," Levantino said of the picketers. "My criteria in hiring is whether somebody can do the job. It's their ability and their past experience. I also have a fiscal responsibility."
Both union and nonunion tradesmen are working on the project, he said.
The state Department of Labor issued Geo a stop-work order in April because it had not registered with the Secretary of the State's Office. Geo promptly filed the necessary paper work, according to Gary Pechie, director of the department's Wage and Workplace Standards Division.
The department also cited three other contractors at the site for failing to carry the necessary worker's compensation coverage. Commercial Glass Fabrication of Big Cove, Ala., has achieved compliance, while Interior Partitions Specialist of Old Saybrook and Four Star Drywall of Manchester, N.H., have not, Pechie said.
"We're definitely monitoring that site," he said. "We've been there several times. They seem to want to use out-of-state contractors."