Ismael Del Toro at the lectern
Local ironworkers are taking aim at North America Sekisui House (NASH), a national developer with offices in San Diego, asking the firm to reconsider its business relationship with a San Clemente–based subcontractor accused of wage theft, unsafe working conditions (including forcing employees to work 14-hour shifts without proper breaks in 100+ degree weather), and trying to cover up employee injuries on the job.
Millennium Reinforcing, Inc., is currently working with a NASH partner on a Hollywood (CA) project and has been involved in major local projects including several downtown buildings and the nearly 800-unit Archstone apartment complex in Mission Valley (since renamed Del Rio).
"They didn't give me any safety training on the job," worker Ismael Del Toro told media with the assistance of a translator. Del Toro says he went to work for Millennium in April for $12/hour. In June, he was accidentally struck in the knee with a section of iron by a coworker, rendering him unable to work. "If we'd had safety training, that might not have happened."
Freshman congressman Scott Peters, in the midst of a high-stakes reelection campaign against fellow former city councilman and onetime mayoral hopeful Carl DeMaio, dropped in to lend his support to workers.
"This isn't a union versus non-union issue — there are plenty of contractors, both union and not, who will follow the law. That's the least we can ask," said Peters, noting that Millennium has in the past been accused of failing to pay workers for hours worked, failing to follow injury-reporting protocol, and has been cited for violations including a lack of drinkable water and required safety equipment on job sites.
"NASH is bringing projects and jobs to [the 52nd Congressional District], which we're happy about," Peters noted. "But we need to ask them to hire companies and subcontractors that are ethical.
Edgar Perez, another Millennium worker on several projects downtown and in Little Italy, had his own horror stories regarding local working conditions under the company. Perez said an October 2013 accident in which he suffered an injury while carrying a load across a job site scattered with rebar also put him out of work.
"Even though I was hurt, I tried to keep working. My foreman saw that I was limping, and when he asked if I was okay I told him I twisted my knee," said Perez, who received several days off after repeatedly checking in to report little progress in healing from his injury.
"Manuel [Perez’s foreman] told me not to worry; he said Millennium would take care of my medical bills. He told me to find a clinic and save my receipts and I would get paid back on my check. He also told me Chino (another worker) got hurt but 'messed up' because he told a doctor that he'd been hurt on the job site. Manuel told me I couldn't tell the doctor I was hurt on the job."
The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration requires employers to record and report workplace injuries, expressly forbidding cover-ups in order to avoid job-site investigations of the type that turned up previous company violations.
A delegation from the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice has requested an audience with NASH vice president Tom McKay. The group was assured by a local employee that the Arlington, Texas–based McKay was aware of their concerns, though an appointment for the group was not confirmed.