DEARBORN COUNTY REGISTER
Unions Protest Against Pipeline Construction By Nonunion Workers
By: Denise Freitag, Staff Reporter
December 21, 2001
Welders from the Pipeliners Union 798, Tulsa, Okla., protest contractor M.G. Dyess' use of nonunion workers to construct a natural gas pipeline in Dearborn County. The protesters carried signs along Ind. 48.
It was 6 a.m. and the air chilly, but one by one cars pulled into parking spaces at the Tanners Creek retail center off .S. 50 in Lawrenceburg.
Union workers from throughout the nation were arriving to rally against a contractor hired to install a five-mile, 20 inch natural gas pipeline in Dearborn County.
"We are protesting an out-of-state contractor building a nonunion pipeline," said welder Jack Holley, Pipeliners Union 798, Tulsa, Okla.
As many as 300 workers were expected to participate in peaceful protests along the pipeline's route from Keller Road and Ind. 48, Lawrenceburg Township, and to PSEG Lawrenceburg Energy Co. electric power plant on U.S. 50 in Lawrenceburg.
"Our complaint is with the contractor, not the personnel," said Mike Markland, special pipeline representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Lexington, Ky.
The operating engineers union is one of four unions that conducted the protest, which also included the pipeliners, Teamsters and Laborers International Union, he said.
Contractor M.G. Dyess, Bassfield, Miss., hired by Williams South Central, Tulsa, Okla., to build the pipeline is "notorious in the South for paying low wages," said Holley.
"The union has established a livable wage and we feel threatened by the influx of people coming in here and undermining it. We fought hard for the standards," he said.
Union contractors bid for the work but it costs less to use a nonunion contractor, said Markland.
Cost is considered when a contractor is chosen for a job but the overall decision is based on several factors. Williams South Central hires union and nonunion workers, said David Hasler, district manager at the Dillsboro compression station, formerly known as Texas Gas Transmission Corporation.
The pipeline is an extension of Williams South Central's main gas line in Dearborn County.
Members of the engineering department in Owensboro, Ky., hire the best quality contractor for a job by looking at previous work and safety records, he said.
Though the decision to hire is not made locally, Hasler said the company would take into consideration negative feelings he had about a contractor.
The construction of the high pressure pipeline is dangerous work, and union workers fear specifications will be overlooked to save money, said Holley.
"We don't feel it is right to sacrifice safety for a few bucks on a man's check," he said.
Hasler said the contractor sets wages for the workers, and the local district participates in the inspection of the construction, which started about two months ago.
Inspections are made by full-time employees in addition to other inspectors hired to work alongside them. Williams South Central sets the strictest standards and the contractor must follow them all. No measure is cut, said Hasler.
Mike Dyess, of M.G. Dyess, said comments about the union concerns should come from Williams South Central.
Hasler said the union members have not contacted him directly about their concerns about the pipeline. His inspectors on site have heard union members were coming around, he said.
The union wants to make sure the workers are getting the appropriate pay and benefits.
Union members plan to protest until the holidays and then return when work on the pipeline resumes, said Holley.
"We appreciate all the public support we can generate. We are here for the working man and we are here for no other reason," he said.
If work resumes according to schedule, gas will be available through the pipeline to the power plant by March, weather permitting, said Hasler.
©The Dearborn County Register 2001