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Protests in Las Vegas at NFL's Allegiant Stadium


Banner outside of Las Vegas's Allegiant Stadium

A battle is brewing in Las Vegas as allegations of worker exploitation are being raised against the NFL' s Allegiant Stadium project less than a week before Super Bowl LVIII. Protestors call out Roger Goodell and the National Football League, contending they did not use the proper level of discretion in hiring. They are using a contractor with an alleged history of abusive and exploitative business practices towards their workers.


The project is high profile, and the activists are flying banners outside the stadium and distributing handbills to passersby- attracting a lot of attention. The language on the materials is direct and specifically calls out the organization for supporting "immigrant labor abuse." They contend that the contractor does not follow safety protocols and pay standards. To further drive the point home, protestors are also displaying a digital banner in front of NFL Headquarters in New York.


BDN spoke to one of the organizers, Vegas labor representative, Jovan Johnson. She says they have had their eye on the offending contractor for a while now and this is the time for action.


"In Production does stadium seating. We first heard complaints about them back during F1. They had workers without state mandated OSHA 10 and scaffold erector cards. There were day laborers out there without hard hats and fall protection- working while wearing sneakers and sweatpants. Now you have NFL fans spending thousands of dollars just to be out there on something ramshackle. Why would a billion-dollar event risk everyone's safety like that from the workers to the spectators? 


Johnson provided pictures of In Production workers in unsafe situations outside Allegiant Stadium

She stresses that the work they do basically crosses the line into craft work. "They are usually last to be brought on, but it's still work that needs to be held to safety standards and paid correctly, not at minimum wage. They think they can get around fair and safe business practices and pay hot dog on a stick wages because they aren't really considered construction- just a vendor."


Shining a Light on the Same Old Story


Digital banner in New York

The issue of immigrant labor abuse in construction is surging and despite the best efforts of authorities, activists, and investigators, in many cases, crooked contractors can stay a step ahead using a variety of tactics. By walking the line between contractor and vendor, In Production avoids market rates, area safety standards, and benefits for workers on high profile projects such as this one. Critics also believe that the same thing was happening at last year’s inaugural Vegas F1 race - an event that in all other areas, was covered by a Project Labor Agreement with workers afforded protections regarding wages, benefits and safety standards.


Johnson stresses that the original Allegiant project was 95% percent signatory and, "now, with these events on the property, they turn a blind eye to rats being brought in." She continues, "this may be small beans to the guys at the top...just the people who build the stands or whatever, but we believe that anyone on your jobsite from crafts people building the actual stadium to workers who erect the stands should be respected and treated the way they deserve to be treated - from the beginning of the project to the end."


Movement Builds


The workforce that is most affected by these practices are voiceless, faceless immigrants. These workers are vulnerable and too scared to stand up for themselves. It is especially egregious when multi-billion-dollar companies turn a blind eye to hiring practices that contribute to this dynamic.


In this case, Vegas Carpenters are leading the charge against these labor standards violations. The NFL, as prominent as they are in the Las Vegas community, bears the responsibility to ensure that area labor standards are met for all construction work associated with their projects. The Union believes that it is unscrupulous of the NFL to shield itself behind the guise of "independent" contractors, thereby evading accountability for labor practices. According to activists, now that scrutiny is mounting, people are pointing fingers and Allegiant and the Stadium Authority are placing the blame squarely on the NFL for the improper hires. They see this as positive and to them, it serves as proof that at least two of the parties involved acknowledge there is a problem.


The hope is that it is merely a mistake on the NFL's part and that the situation will be remedied. Unfortunately, critics feel that it is deliberate.


Obligation


The union maintains that the NFL must understand its obligation to the communities that these stadiums inhabit by ensuring that proper labor standards are adhered to in all current and future projects. These contractors are coming into these areas as guests, and if they want to be part of the community, they must always contribute to the community not take from it. By allowing these workers to be taken advantage of, it is stealing from workers who live in the places they build.


The NFL's association with companies allegedly violating labor standards underscores the need for accountability in major construction projects. As advocates like the Carpenters Union take a stand, it sends a message, "Whether it was an oversight or not, these companies must be called out when they are guilty of poor hiring practices. Only then will they always commit to making sure that they are creating a good, safe, and fair work environment. It takes practice to be in the NFL, it also takes practice to be ethical. The NFL needs to take a page from the players and train more to not have these lapses in judgement.


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