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Complaint: Hotel builder fired workers for trying to form union

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 35 union construction workers and their supporters demonstrated along Kanawha Boulevard and Virginia Street Thursday morning.

They stood near the two construction entrances to an upscale hotel, part of the Courtyard by Marriott chain, being built on the banks of the Elk River.

Justin Lore, who worked for Hi-Tech Electric for six years as an electrician, said he was fired after he got caught talking to union members about being unable to cash his paycheck from Hi-Tech, which is based in Ashland, Ky.

"This isn't the first time this happened," Lore said. "There have been paycheck issues before -- and it is not just me. There are several other guys who could vouch for that.

"You can't expect your guys to show up at work and not pay them. You have to have some food."

Lore said he has worked on projects for Hi-Tech in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

Joe Samples, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 466 in Charleston, said, "This is not about being union or non-union. This is about workers' rights.

"We stand for all workers, whether they're union or non-union. We want them to have a better standard of living."

IBEW Local 317, based in Huntington, filed a complaint Wednesday against Hi-Tech with the National Labor Relations Board.

"Hi-Tech Electric Incorporated and/or its agents discharged employees of the company for trying to establish a union with the company," the complaint stated. "Hi-Tech Incorporated questioned and spied on employees during their union activities."

Samples said five Hi-Tech workers were either fired or laid off during the past two weeks.

Robert Layman II, president of Hi-Tech Electric, said, "We have no response to the union. It is what they do.

"I've got my employees," Layman said. "They are paid well. They have hospitalization. We take care of them.

"We will be here until the end of the job. It will be a beautiful facility."

Layman said he didn't have any comment on the complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. "This is the first I've heard of it," he said.

Hi-Tech Electric employs non-union workers under its contract with Virginia Inn Management Inc., the main developer at the Charleston construction site. Charles H. Wendell of Charleston, S.C., heads VIM Inc., which has its West Virginia offices in Fayetteville.

Terry Bevins, who is supervising the Marriott construction project for VIM, said Thursday that he had no comment about the union protest.

"This is about our budget. It is not about union or non-union workers," Bevins said. "Private money is funding this project, like McDonald's or anywhere else."

Earlier this year, a complaint was filed against Hi-Tech in Cabell County Magistrate Court for allegedly failing to pay workers promptly at its Hampton Inn construction project in Kinetic Park.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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