Off-Island workers protested
Published: February 22, 2013
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ST. CROIX - A handful of residents are up in arms about a road project that has been ongoing for several months because the workers are not residents of the territory.
Eurman Fahie and Troy Moore, community activists, have been leading the public outcry on talk radio shows and on the job sites, with picket signs in hand, saying that dozens of workers have been brought in from Puerto Rico to do work that could have been done by local residents.
"With the unemployment rate so high here on St. Croix, why are they bringing in people from outside," Fahie asked. "The work that they are doing to bury those cables do not take any major skills or degrees, and we have people here who could do that."
Fahie said the money being paid to the workers is leaving the territory every weekend when they return home to their families, That is money that could have been circulated here in the territory to keep the sagging economy afloat, he said.
"The government and these companies and the department should be ashamed," he said. "They are taking food out of the local people's mouths, and this is bad."
V.I. Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr. said the work on sections of Queen Mary Highway near Peter's Rest, Beeston Hill and now towards Catherine's Rest is being done by a subcontractor for Innovative and there is nothing wrong with the hiring.
"It would be great to have all local workers employed on every project that we have in the territory, but it is not likely and it is not illegal," he said. "This is what is good about America, and this is what is bad about America."
Just as residents who were terminated from HOVENSA, the government or private companies are able to pack up and go somewhere else for weeks or months or even years at a time to work, the same constitutional rights protect workers who come here for employment, Bryan said.
Businesses are required by law to register their jobs with the Labor Department, but they are not bound by law to only hire a specific set of people, he said.
- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.