GRANITEVILLE -- The new Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire manufacturing facility in Graniteville is beginning to rise but union officials say that the people putting up the steel beams and laying the concrete do not come from the Aiken-Augusta area.
Local union contractors have been left out of the bidding process altogether, according to Don Solki, a representative of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 283.
"Contractors bring in workers from Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Florida to work in Aiken County while experienced and highly trained workers in the Central Savannah River Area are out of work," Mr. Solki said.
He charged that the contractors have made no arrangements to hire local workers and the local employment agency has no information on who to see and or where to go to apply for jobs at the Bridgestone/Firestone construction site in Sage Mill Industrial Park.
He produced a list of more than 30 members of the Carpenter's Local 283, charging that these workers had not been allowed to apply for jobs with contractors now working at the site.
"Contractors usually put up a trailer where you can go to apply for a job but we have been stopped at the front gate,"Mr. Solki said.
Bechtel, the general contractor for the $435 million light truck and passenger tire manufacturing facility, does not get involved in who the contractors hire or where they get them.
"We're not managing the labor here. We're just managing the contractors," said Rick Bradford, Bechtel's on-site manager.
Local workers seeking jobs with contractors at the Sage Mill site in Graniteville can leave a resume at the gate, according to Bill Harmon, Baker Concrete engineering manager. Mr. Harmon also maintains that there are local people working for Baker but said he does not know how many.
"The ones we have here had no problem getting hired," he said.
Union officials say they are especially concerned that skilled workers, downsized from jobs at the Savannah River Site, have been preempted from employment in their own backyards by out-of-state contractors who have brought in crews from outside the area.
"These people are dedicated. Many of them gave years of their lives working for their country during the Cold War and now they can't get past the gate," said Lane Parker, business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Individuals seeking jobs with Bridgestone/Firestone South Carolina Co. can apply through the S.C. Employment Security Commission in Aiken but no provision has been made to take applications from construction workers, said Charlie Haneman, director of the Aiken office.
"The construction site is sending people over here," he said, "and we take down their names, addresses, and work histories but they're not hiring here."