Protesters picketing at Pulte Homes construction sites in Florence and Mesa were demanding that water be provided for laborers working on new homes — but they got more water than they wished for.
The AFL-CIO posted video on YouTube of several incidents this week showing protesters being drenched by a water truck that moved slowly back and forth on a subdivision street where new homes are under construction. One of the protesters appears to throw a sign at the truck.
Manny Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and AFL-CIO affiliate, called the incident an “assault” and said the union is consulting its attorneys on possible legal action.
“(Pulte officials) say they were doing dust control,” Gonzalez said. “The only dust being controlled was on the workers’ backs.”
Victor Trejo, one of the protesters, said he was “surprised and humiliated” by the dousing.
A representative of Pulte Homes said the company takes the incident seriously and is investigating.
“We don’t condone what has happened here at all,” said Jacque Petroulakis, Pulte’s director of public affairs for the Southwest region. “But it’s clear the video has been heavily edited. It appears the picketers are not trying to get out of the way. We told them of our obligations to control dust, and they did not get out of the way.”
Petroulakis said the video is part of an ongoing labor union campaign using paid protesters that is targeting nonunion subcontractors hired by Pulte Homes.
Gonzalez denied that the labor group is trying to organize the subcontractors. The protests only relate to working conditions, he said.
“This is a social justice issue,” he said. “The only reason unions are involved is to assist these workers to get justice at the job site.”
Gonzales said the two-minute video shows three separate incidents that took place on May 16, 23 and 24. Two were at Pulte construction sites in Florence and one in Mesa, he said.
Among the complaints of the protesters were that workers didn’t have sufficient access to water in the hot working conditions and were not provided the tools and safety equipment they needed to do their jobs.
Petroulakis said Pulte has been asking the union for specific information about the claims of poor treatment but hasn’t received a response.
“The unions have been making these claims since last year, but they have never provided detailed specific examples we can investigate,” she said. “The safety and welfare of everyone is of great interest to us.”
Petroulakis said the homebuilder uses a mix of union and nonunion subcontractors in its housing developments.
The company uses both Pulte and contracted trucks to control dust, she said. Although one of the trucks shown in the video has a “Pulte” sign on its side, it appears to be spraying the street, not individuals, she said. The truck spraying the protesters does not have identification on its side, she said.
“I wouldn’t want to imply that a contractor was at fault,” she said. “But we are taking it seriously. We are investigating to see what happened.”
She added the company hopes to get an unedited version of the video from the union.
Dana Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said the video does not show all of the dousing incidents that have taken place at Pulte construction sites. She said workers have counted up to 16 water “assaults” in one day.
Headquarters: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Business: Homebuilder operating in 27 states; delivered 41,487 homes in 2006 under Pulte, Del Webb and DiVosta brands
In Arizona: Building in 17 communities in the Valley, six in the Tucson area
2006 revenue: $14.3 billion
2006 net income: $2.6 billion