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Bloomington Herald-Times

November 15, 2012

Protesters target subcontractor on IU project
By Mike Leonard
November 15, 2012

A small group of protesters demonstrated on the Indiana University campus Wednesday to call attention to what they described as indifference to worker safety by a subcontractor on an IU project.

Protester Bob Andree said Lamar Construction Co. of Hudsonville, Mich., is an "irresponsible contractor" that has been cited for 114 violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "They just don't want to train people and give them the tools to make them safe," he said. "People have suffered career-ending injuries because they haven't had proper training and oversight."

Andree, also from Michigan, said he was fired by Lamar for speaking out and reinstated under orders from the National Labor Relations Board. He said he is currently on strike to protest the company's safety issues and unfair labor practices.

Andree is affiliated with a group that calls itself the Worker's Freedom Coalition.

A call to Lamar Construction's Hudsonville, Mich., office was not returned Wednesday.

"We know about the protest today, but to the best of my knowledge, there has been no specific safety issue involved with this project," said Tom Morrison, vice president for capital projects and facilities at IU. "If there are, we will be happy to carry them forward and have them looked into."

The project in question is a $22 million renovation and expansion of the dining facilities at Forest Quadrangle. When completed, the expanded dining hall and food vendor area will serve the southeast quadrant of the campus, including Forest, Read, Willkie and Rose Avenue residence halls.

Weddle Brothers Building Group of Bloomington is the general contractor for the renovation project. President Lee Carmichael said Wednesday that Lamar Construction is a subcontractor for another subcontractor on the project, Marion Steel. He said that Weddle first learned of complaints about Lamar after contracts for the IU project had been signed and that Weddle forwarded those concerns to Marion Steel. "We have not observed any unsafe acts," Carmichael said. "If somebody knows of anything specific, we'd love to have it brought to our attention."

Lamar Construction has defended its safety record in the wake of other protests by the Worker's Freedom Coalition. "We've got five disgruntled former employees that are trying to make us out to be something we're not," Lamar's human resources spokeswoman told in September. Vice President Kate Armstrong said the company has a five-person safety team training the company's roughly 300 employees working out of Michigan, Kentucky and Colorado and has a better safety record than the industry average.