Union members say that Swervo undercuts building trades standards.
On Monday afternoon, Building Trades union members met outside the offices of Swervo Development Corp. in downtown Minneapolis to protest the labor practices of the company and its owner, Ned Abdul.
“Swervo is the worst developer that we’re aware of,” said Dan McGowan, assistant director of organizing for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota. “[Swervo] continually undercuts standards set by the Building Trades.
“Workers were wearing shorts and tennis shoes without hard hats for a demolition,” said McGowan, referring to the recent construction of Swervo’s Whitney residences in Minneapolis. McGowan also said Building Trades organizers documented workers who were being paid $6 an hour in cash with no benefits.
The Building Trades campaign is focused on responsible development, McGowan said. The message to contractors is “We want you to do it right. We want you to bring in workers who are trained and skilled and paid a decent wage.”
After their demonstration at Swervo’s offices, the Building Trades organizers headed to a meeting of the Minneapolis Planning Commission where Swervo was seeking approval for a restaurant project on North Fifth St. in the warehouse district.
The Building Trades aren’t against the project; they just want it to be done responsibly, said McGowan. “We want [Swervo] to know that no matter how big the project, we want him to use workers that get a decent wage and livable benefits.”
Swervo is involved in developing several buildings in downtown Minneapolis, including a number of condominium projects.
As part of their campaign, the Building Trades are staying in touch with other contractors, said McGowan. “We are in email contact with over 400 contractors, updating them on Swervo.”
At the Planning Commission meeting, Swervo’s restaurant project was approved. However it still needs final approval by the City Council.
Elliot Ward is an intern this summer with Workday Minnesota.