|Workers at The Province constuction site take
their lunch of hotdogs and hamburgers, which
were provided by the local union members
who have been protesting conditions.
Since The Province’s approval in February 2008, workers have been toiling away constructing 14 buildings so that RIT students can move in by the start of the 2010-2011 school year. Over the last few months, local union representatives (and the occasional 15 foot inflatable rat) have set up outside the apartment complex to protest the site. They pass out materials to workers on ways to report employer fraud and rights violations, and even provide lunch on certain days.
Thomas Stephens, a business development specialist with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), had been in contact with Edwards Community Construction to inquire about whether local workers would be involved with the project, when the site contractors for the Province arrived from Michigan in July 2009.
“We approached Edwards to try to talk with them about using some local help. They explained to us that these contractors work for them all over the country and that they weren’t going to need any local help,” said Stephens.
Stephens has filed written requests and appeals to gain more information on investigations of The Province. “This whole thing is not about unions. This is . . . about the community.” Stephens noted that the time for union construction workers to be a part of The Province has long since passed.
Stephens wants to raise awareness in the community that the operation is not helping the local economy. “When you spend money locally, with people that live in the community and pay taxes in the community, the money turns over,” he said. Hiring people from out of town limits the amount of money that goes to the community because the workers will most likely stay at hotels and spend money on necessities such as food and gas. Funds do not go to the schools, county or other civic organizations.
The Province markets itself as “luxury student living” and will offer 816 students housing with 11.5 month leases. The fully furnished apartments range from one to four person units, offering different options for renters. Construction is currently on schedule so that the move in date for students will be September 1.
Ty Mendelson, assistant property manager at The Province, noted that students seem “really excited about the amenities that The Province is offering that aren’t available at other properties.” One feature is the Club House, which will serve as a place where students can meet and get together outside of classes. “[The Province] will be a really fun college experience,” said Mendelson.
Mendelson declined to comment on the activity of the protesters outside the apartment complex. He did note that students continued to come into the leasing office while the protesters were present.
Valerie Carrera, a first year Chemical Engineering major, noted that cost and private rooms were major factors when she chose to sign a lease with The Province. “We wanted to live in Global Village, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be done [by the beginning of the school year].” She and her roommates were unaware of the protesters at the complex, but learning about the IUOE presence did not seem to deter her excitement over having her own room next year.
Stephens asks for RIT to create a dialogue with Edwards, explaining, “There would be no reason to build this project, if not for RIT.” At the time of print, President William Destler has not made a statement about the Province. The Office of the President views the complex as a completely private development.
While protesting has declined at the Province site, conversation between Edwards and IUOE is still ongoing.