'Immigrant labor abuse' banner outside of Tesla

Posted at 1:28 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 12:29:02-04
Maybe you've seen them outside of Fashion Square in Scottsdale.
Men sitting or standing behind a large white sign that reads: IMMIGRANT LABOR ABUSE at TESLA.
Their dispute isn't with the Tesla shop in Arizona as much as it is with the contractor hired to work on the Tesla Motors' gigafactory that is being built in Nevada.
"It's not a union issue.  It's an immigrant-abuse issue.  I can't stress that enough," Mike Witt, special representative for Carpenters Local 971 Southwest Regional Council, said over the phone.
Witt said Brycon Corporation, which is headquartered in New Mexico but has an office in Chandler, is not paying everyone area-standard wages at the battery manufacturing worksite.
"It could be a $15 to $20 difference than area standards," Witt said.
Brycon Corp. Chief Financial Officer Phil Casaus said he can't offer specifics about the project and scope of work at the facility, but said the accusations by the Local 971 have no merit.
"All trades at Brycon are paid fair wages at all levels and our wages are competitive for the region," Casaus said. "Brycon offers a robust benefits plan for all eligible employees that include  Health & Dental & Vision, 401k and Life & ADD insurance and vacation/sick pay."
This isn't the first time Brycon has been blamed for breaking the rules at the new facility.  Union construction workers walked off the job in February claiming Brycon Corp. hired a large number of out-of-state workers and was not complying with state requirements.  According to the Associated Press, approximately 350 plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters and others walked away from the construction site.  
The Nevada legislature gave Tesla more than $1 billion in tax breaks to build the facility in exchange for certain promises, including the commitment to hire at least 50 percent Nevada workers. At the time, Tesla said in a statement that the electric car-maker is in compliance with all state requirements. It said many of the contractors at the site are union, but "the one at issue is not."  Casaus said Brycon is an open-shop, merit-based contractor.
"The union is ... claiming that this contractor is somehow favoring out of state workers. In reality, more than 50 percent of the workers used by this contractor and more than 75 percent of the entire gigafactory workforce are Nevada residents, demonstrating the project's strong commitment to Nevada," Tesla told the AP.
Witt said the banner-holders perched at the corner of Camelback Rd. and Scottsdale Rd. are paid to stand with the sign for approximately 6 hours a day.  He said they have been in the Phoenix-area for nearly two months and don't have a timetable for ending their protest.
According to Witt, the 10 million square foot $5 billion battery factory near Reno is expected to be complete late this year.