DAVENPORT, Iowa — Workers with Millwrights Local 2158 protested Tuesday morning outside the future Davenport Amazon distribution center to show their disappointment with the e-commerce company's decision to bring in workers from other states to complete the $250 million construction project.
Millwrights Local 2158 told News 8's Jonathan Fong that their agreements to do construction work for Amazon recently expired, and now the union is worried the company's decision to rely on out-of-state help could hurt local businesses.
"When you bring in these out-of-state contractors to come, stay, they're taking their money with them and going home," said Jim Bark, business manager for the union. "You hire local contractors, we're spending our money here in the Quad Cities, giving back to the community."
Union leaders said out-of-state workers are also coming in at lower pay — and without benefits. Bark said all the union wants is to keep jobs like these competitive with local workers, keep those workers here and just for everyone to be honest.
The union business manager also said he thinks the timing of this decision is bad since local workers won't be building a major part of the distribution center.
"The project that we're fighting for here is to install five floors of conveyor, which is miles of conveyor," Bark said. "It'll typically take 70 to 120 tradesmen and apprentices that'll last anywhere between seven to 12 months — so it's a very big project."
The disappointment felt by the workers isn't backed up by anger or frustration. All they said they want is a fair deal.
"Organizations like this have been driven by turnouts like this," said Millwrights Union Apprentice Instructor Jerame Stevens. "That's getting the point across and trying to meet in the middle with people, you know. Doesn't need to be one-sided."
News 8 has reached out to Amazon for further comment on the protest, however, the company has yet to respond. Union workers said they are hopeful for a resolution, but they will stay in front of the future distribution center until a solution can be reached.
Back in May, Amazon spokesperson Caitlin Polochak told News 8 that the project would be delayed until at least 2024. She didn't provide specific reasons for the delay, but Jennifer Walker of the Quad Cities Chamber said it was due to "unforeseen circumstances."
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