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I would like to enroll in the Coalition for Ironworker Justice, a coalition of student groups, community organizations and individuals showing support for the workers at D’Ambra Steel.
I believe that the employees of D’Ambra Steel should be provided: Fair & Safe Work Environment Affordable Family Health Insurance Dignity in the Work Place
I would also denounce any General Contractor, Developer, Public or Private Entity that profits from the mistreatment of workers and believe those entities that do so should be held accountable.
Stop Reinforcing Injustice!
I support the workers of D’Ambra Steel!
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Inside the campaign for justice at D’Ambra Steel
E-Mail____________________________________________________________________ Signature__________________________________________________________________ White Paper published by the Coalition for Ironworker Justice, 2013
D’Ambra Steel Services is one of the largest rebar and concrete reinforcing contractors in the Southwest. Based in Houston, Texas and with an office in Dallas, they employ many iron workers throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They also fabricate rebar through an associated company, D-Fab Rebar Group in El Paso, Texas. D’Ambra Steel workers help construct a variety of structures, including office buildings, apartments, highways, schools, casinos, convention centers, government buildings, and water treatment plants. Unfortunately, D’Ambra Steel has a history of worker abuse and mistreatment. In May 2012, several D’Ambra workers in Dallas went on strike to protest the lack of drinking water on the jobsites, low wages and no benefits, and other injustices. One of these strikers, Omar Rendon explained, “I want D’Ambra to act responsibly and treat us better so that we can do higher-quality work. I want them to provide the things we need at work, like safety equipment and water.”
“They don’t put water out for us. They don’t give us gloves. They don’t give us much of the equipment that we have to use. We start working, but then later they just want more, more, and more. There are times when it’s a struggle, you’re tired. They’ll make you work late one day, Omar Rendon, striking worker and the next day they’ll make you go in late. On a normal day, [I work] only eight hours. [Sometimes] they make us work late, until nine, ten, eight. And the following day they make us go in late. You can’t go in early, they make you go in late. [I’m striking] to see if they change things, if they improve things. That they provide water for us, because they don’t even give us a cooler for water. That they treat us better. [In terms of safety equipment, the company] doesn’t provide anything. First of all, [you need] a harness, gloves, goggles, they don’t provide a hardhat; they provide none of these things. One has to buy it. More than anything, when one gets hurt, it’s the scratches, it’s the cuts, and you have to take care of them on your own. Your hands get cut, since the bars are sharp, you get cut, and you just have to take care of it on your own. The boss just says, “Oh, that’s nothing.” That’s what he says, just like that.
University of Texas students, public employees, and other supporters stand with striking workers in front of the UT System Administration offices waiting to speak to a representative. D’Ambra Steel workers have experienced abusive conditions at several UT System institutions, including UTD and MD Anderson.
D’Ambra Steel is usually hired by general contractors. These businesses, the project owners, and associated public entities should demand that all contractors on the jobsite treat workers fairly, obey the law, and maintain the highest standards of ethical business practices.
Is your organization or company committed to protecting workers from the sort of abuses described in this document? Sign and return the “Appeal for Justice” included here!
All those organizations that profit from D’Ambra Steel’s work are morally accountable and ultimately responsible for the practices that D’Ambra Steel uses. They should say unequivocally that they will not support businesses that abuse Coalition for Ironworker Justice workers and ensure that all current and E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org future projects do not contract with, and Phone: (214) 673 4139 will not contract with unscrupulous
Workers at D’Ambra Steel are forced to walk a tightrope every day, struggling to balance the demands for long and uninterrupted work days, working without adequate safety protections, and the understanding that, if something were to happen to them on the job, it’s very likely that it could cost them dearly. As D’Ambra Steel employee Jorge Balderas explained, “If we all fought for our rights, they’re going to have to listen to us--because without us, they can’t do anything.” This is exactly what some D’Ambra Steel workers have decided to do, and they have found support among many community organizations in the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas. These community supporters include individuals as well as organizations of students, people of faith, and activists supporting the rights of workers and immigrants. They have been moved by hearing about the struggle of workers at D’Ambra Steel and frequently join the strikers to discuss their issues with developers, project owners, and the general public.
Jorge Balderas, striking worker
“D’Ambra doesn’t provide medical insurance. My wife is sick, she has cancer. At the hospital, they asked me if the company I worked for provided insurance. I told them no. They sent a letter to D’Ambra [verifying medical insurance], and they didn’t respond. My wife’s treatment was delayed because the company wouldn’t respond. If I’d been here [in Dallas] and hadn’t gone [to the D’Ambra office in Houston] personally, they would never have responded. [Medical insurance is] a benefit that would be good to have. If you get hurt on the job, you have to do whatever you can on your own. They don’t help you at all. If you get hurt and you go home, you don’t get paid. And you have to pay for the treatment. Your loss is doubled then. That they provide tools, that they provide insurance, that they simply treat us better. That’s all we want.”
These conditions are not unique to Dallas—less than a month later, over 70 D’Ambra Steel workers walked off a jobsite in Houston over frequent and arbitrary pay cuts and other issues. Jaime Nieves related that he had enough after witnessing a co-worker be hospitalized for heat stroke because of the job. “D’Ambra does nothing,” Nieves said. “They said they did not care and were not responsible for this incident. My friend had to pawn his car to pay the rent because D’Ambra does not care.”
“I began to feel bad from heat stroke, but I kept working. I went to rest my feet, Agustin Muños, striking but the manager told me I could wait...but I couldn't wait. I spoke to my wife, and told her to come get me, because I was very sick. Four hours later, they took me to the hospital. I was there for eight days recovering. I went to the managers of D'Ambra to drop off the papers that said I was in the hospital, but the managers told me, ‘We didn't know anything about you getting sick on the job. Do you want to work, or not?’ I told them I need help for the days I was in the hospital and unable to work, so now I have no money and I can't eat. I've had to sell the title of my car to pay my rent and other things. I have to pay $20,000, but I can't pay that on my salary, which is why I went on strike. “
D’Ambra Steel workers and their community allies speak to a project owner about poor working conditions at Parkland Hospital.
A striking D’Ambra worker and supporter hold a banner in front of MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX
A D’Ambra Steel worker in Houston describes mistreatment and appalling safety concerns on the Exxon Mobil project site.
These days, labor stoppages due to strikes are not at all common. Even less common, though, is the spontaneous labor stoppage, unmediated by any authorized bargaining agent, called a “wildcat.” It’s only when conditions are so abusive and ownership so intransigent to rational pleas for relief that job actions like a wildcat take place. But that’s exactly what happened in Houston, as over 70 D’Ambra Steel employees walked off the job one morning last June in protest of the abuse and lies of D’Ambra’s management. It wasn’t just any jobsite, either—this happened at a $1.4 billion Exxon Mobil project and stopped every other contractor from working that day. What did they want? Unreasonable and frivolous demands never motivate workers to take such risky actions that would threaten their livelihood. It was very basic things— adequate provision of safety equipment and drinking water, the dignity of not being lied to about how much they would be paid, for example—just these simple things sparked the day’s events.
D’Ambra workers gather outside after the walkout
D’Ambra Steel workers in Texas continue to speak out about a number of problems:
Could it happen again? Perhaps the more appropriate question should be, “when?” The promises that Anthony D’Ambra made to entice the workers back to their job were broken almost immediately, much like other promises they have heard from the company in the past. Workers at D’Ambra Steel also felt the support from the community for the first time that day, as other working families rallied to their side and began to follow news about the company. If it happens again—when it happens again—it will likely be a more drawn out and costly affair for everyone. * * *
Low salary and arbitrary pay cuts: Many D’Ambra Steel workers make lower than the median wage for reinforcing ironworkers in their respective areas. This means most struggle to support their families and have little to no savings for health care emergencies or on-the-job accidents. On top of that, they are often asked to pay for their own hotel rooms when sent to jobs hundreds of miles away. Poor working conditions and job safety: Placing rebar anywhere is hard work, involving constant heavy lifting, working from heights, and demands to meet a tight project schedule. This is particularly true in the hot summers of the Southwest. Rather than taking these factors into account and providing adequate breaks, drinking water, and safety equipment, D’Ambra Steel has been found to fall far short of what an ethical contractor would provide their workers. No 401K, pension, or retirement benefits: What is the reward for many years of service as an employee of D’Ambra Steel, doing the type of work, under poor conditions, that leaves the body tired and worn, often with lasting injuries? Since D’Ambra Steel doesn’t even offer a 401K program, much less a pension or other retirement benefits, the worker might get a handshake from owner Anthony D’Ambra—if they’re lucky!
No vacation days or sick pay: D’Ambra Steel employees currently do not receive any vacation days or sick pay. Rather than being allowed to heal from injuries and sickness, workers are forced to labor until the project is done, often on schedules that start at dawn and end after dusk. Few bathroom breaks: On several jobsites, D’Ambra Steel workers have complained that superintendents and other supervisory employees don’t allow them to take bathroom breaks when needed, claiming that it would slow the project down. According to striking D’Ambra Steel worker Omar Rendon, this inhumane practice resulted in one of his co-workers having to urinate on himself at a University of Texas at Dallas project in 2012. Inadequate access to drinking water: Throughout the summer, the heat can be not just dangerous, but deadly to construction workers. No one knows this better than striking D’Ambra Steel worker Agustin Munoz, who experienced heat stroke on the Exxon Mobil corporate campus jobsite in Houston in the summer of 2012 and nearly died. No health insurance or workers’ compensation coverage: D’Ambra Steel workers currently do not have any access to health insurance and, in Texas, don’t even have workers compensation provided. Agustin Munoz, the D’Ambra Steel worker who nearly died from heat exhaustion on the job, was told that the company was not responsible for any of his health care expenses, which totaled over $15,000 after his hospital stay.
Source: http://univisionhouston.univision.com/noticias/ videos-de-noticias/video/2012-06-11/protesta-empleadosdambra-steel-the-woodlands-houston
Jaime Nieves, striking D’Ambra worker, describes the abuses that sparked the wildcat to Univision