St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes, Central Trades & Labor Council

Violence against union organizers

A civil rights lawsuit was filed on Monday, March 17, 2008 against several contractors and multiple unnamed defendants after five union organizers were brutally assaulted last Friday while engaged in a lawful picket at a construction site in downtown Los Angeles. The lawsuit filed against contractors Hirex, Golden Gate Steel and its owner, and the unnamed defendants seeks unspecified damages for violations of California Civil Code section 51, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

More than 15 workers from the jobsite, some of whom were wielding iron rebar and 2x4's, violently attacked the five organizers. As a result, Robbie Hunter, President of Ironworkers Local 433, was hospitalized after suffering multiple injuries including a fractured cheek bone and busted lip. He was punched in the face, struck in the back
of the head with a club, and kicked in the face and leg by the defendants.

"The violent assault against these union organizers is not only reprehensible, it is also a violation of their civil rights," said Ellyn Moscowitz, attorney for the plaintiffs. "These men were attacked because of their position as union organizers; that makes this a hate crime in the state of California. Employers who engage in these crimes can expect that the full weight of the legal system will be brought to bear on them."

In response, over 600 Building Trades and other union members and their allies turned out for a "Stop the Violence" rally at the jobsite where the union organizers were attacked.

"We are here to send a message to all of the non-union contractors in Los Angeles that we will not tolerate violence against union organizers or any other member of the Building Trades who are out here fighting for decent wages for construction workers," said Richard Slawson, Executive-Secretary of the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council. "We are prepared to use every legal means at our disposal to protect the rights of workers. These non-union contractors may use these violent tactics from 100 years ago, but we won't stand for it."

In addition to the injuries sustained by Hunter, IBEW organizer Larry Henderson was struck by a 2x4, fracturing his arm. Ironworkers Local 433 organizer Rene Angeles was hit in the face with a 2x4 and suffered bruises. Kevin Norton and IBEW organizer Tommy Faavae suffered also suffered bruises.

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