At 5:30 a.m. Friday, it was pretty early for college students to be out of bed.
But a group of two dozen Arizona State University students joined construction workers in front of a campus building site, bobbing signs and marching in circles to demand a steel contractor improve how it treats and pays its workers.
Great Western Erectors is a Texas-based subcontractor working on the construction project for a new freshmen residential area, called McAllister Academic Village, near the corner of Lemon Street and Rural Road in Tempe.
ASU sophomore Joaquin Rios helped to organize the event, calling upon the campus Student Labor Action Coalition to protest in support of a dozen workers who have been picketing at the site since May.
Officials with the AFL-CIO and the Ironworkers’ Local Union 846 are supporting the workers’ complaints. Great Western does not have a union.
The workers claim they’ve been subjected to verbal abuse and harassment, underpaid, denied overtime and not given vacation or sick pay. They make as much as $11 an hour, Rios said, a wage they claim is half that paid to other Great Western workers.
Great Western issued a statement Friday, saying the accusations "are baseless and untrue." The company also said workers who want to unionize need to hold a secret ballot supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.