Ironworkers protest Facebook

By Don McIntosh

Out-of-work members, retirees and staff from Iron Workers Local 29 showed up April 11 and 12 outside the Facebook data center in Prineville, Oregon, to protest the use of low-wage nonunion ironworkers from out of state in a major expansion. Facebook has received $71.5 million in Oregon property tax credits — and got a special legislative fix to lower its data center tax bills — and yet its general contractor Fortis Construction has hired nonunion subcontractors like Sure Steel of Utah on the Prineville expansion.

Local 29 President Shane Nehls said reactions to the union banner were mostly positive, with community members and workers on the site pulling over to find out more, and a friendly news report on Bend TV station KTVZ. But several people in trucks with Utah license plates reacted with scowls and middle fingers. Ironworkers also protested at Prineville city hall and outside a Facebook office in Seattle. The union is planning further actions.

Operating Engineers Local 701 held a similar protest at Facebook’s Prineville data center in late March. A reporter for the Bend Bulletin wrote about the protest, but that seemed to irritate the paper’s anti-union editorial board, which told readers in an unsigned April 7 editorial they shouldn’t feel too sorry for union picketers: “If union members have priced themselves out of the job, that’s their problem.”

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