ROCKPORT, Texas — If you go down Austin Street in Rockport and see yellow and green signs, you’ll see the union, Southwest Pipe Trades Association, silently protesting what they say is wage theft and misclassification.
“We talked to these guys and they said 'oh, everyone’s doing everybody’s craft. One day you’re doing duct work, the next day you’re doing plumbing work,'” Chad Tomlin, their lead organizer, said.
The Southwest Pipe Trades Association said those employees aren’t even licensed to do those other jobs. They blame the general contractor, Teal Construction Company, and its subcontractors City Plumbing Company and Scott AC and Heating, for not paying their employees correctly.
“If they’re an HVAC tech, they should be making $30.25. If they’re a plumber, they should be making $33.80. To come in here and label them as a general laborer or a pipelayer, they’re going to get 10 to 12 dollars less an hour,” Chris Schramek, an organizer with the union said.
Teal Construction Company’s director of South Texas operations Michael Miller said they do not pay employees directly. They pay their subcontractors and those subcontractors, pay employees.
“As required by the federal funding governing this project, we require documentation from our subcontractors that every worker is being compensated at or above the wage decisions issued in accordance with the Davis-Bacon act,” Miller said in a statement.
The Davis Bacon Act requires employers to post an area’s prevailing job pay rate at the project site, so workers can see what they’re supposed to be making.
“A big red flag to us was they didn’t have the wages posted at the entrance for the workers to clearly see," Bobby Smith, an organizer with the union said. "We spoke to the general contractor out here. They got that taken care of quickly.”
Southwest Pipe Trades Association provided us with a pay stub from an HVAC technician employed by Teal Construction Company’s subcontractor Scott AC and Heating.
It said the employee is making $20 an hour. Southwest Pipe Trades Association said he should be making over $30 an hour.
“The wages for this project are determined by the Davis Bacon act," Scott AC and Heating president Sarah Moore said in a statement. "We always pay per that schedule of wages, and certify and submit our payroll weekly. We have never underpaid wages.”
Southwest Pipe Trades Association said they want to shine a light on the issue and get their union members backpay, but won’t be taking legal action.
“The town of Rockport, the people that live here, the taxpayers, they need to know what’s going on with these projects and that’s just kind of what we do,” Tomlin said.
KRIS 6 TV Reporter Andrew Christiansen reached out to the City of Rockport for a statement. They referred him to the Rockport Center for the Arts.
He reached out the Rockport Center for the Arts multiple times and did not get a response. He also contacted City Plumbing Company in Alice and they said they would not comment on the issue.