Nashville International: Workers call for change as Music City grows

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s a building boom in Nashville. A quick scan of the skyline reveals a sea of cranes and construction projects, tall and small.

But beneath those cranes are literally thousands of workers. 

Numbers by the Department of Labor have construction as the 10th highest industry in the number of employees, with more than 23,000 workers in 2018 in Davidson County. 

“You look outside this window, you see four cranes, and we’re not even close to downtown,” said Alejandro Guizar, who works hand in hand with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. 

Eric Coons has worked with the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union for 15 years. In that time, Coons says he’s seen competition cause issues county wide. 

“It’s been cutthroat, it seems like quality and value have really been sacrificed,” said Coons. “Downtown Nashville, we had several deaths a few years ago on construction projects.”

Construction deaths topped headlines two years ago, with six in Davidson County alone, three in the Summer months. 

The death of Fausto Flores led many local groups to call for change. They called for safer conditions, in one of Nashville’s more diverse job markets.

Partnership for Working Families featured Nashville in their study on construction working conditions in the south.

In a random poll of 200 to 300 workers in Nashville, they report 48% were Latino. 

Alejandro says the number may be higher, involving undocumented workers fleeing poor conditions in other countries. 

“Where they’re from is harsh,” he added. “They decide to take the risk, of crossing several countries to come to the US, just to come here.”

But those workers can sometimes miss out on benefits. 

Alejandro explains that as some large companies seek out small subcontractors, those companies will seek out even smaller subcontractors, and rewards can be lost along the way. 

“Because there are so many companies between the big ones and the workers,” he said. “You lose all of that, you lose all the overtime, you lose the healthcare, you lose the retirement.”

Workers across the spectrum are now standing up, hoping for a change in the Music City. 

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