Protesters Supporting Unpaid Quad Construction Workers Removed, Briefly Detained at Board of Regents Meeting
Written by Davis Mendoza Darusman on November 14, 2019
A group of students, faculty, and community organizers were escorted out of today’s Board of Regents meeting by UHPD, who temporarily detained the protesters, demanded they present identification, and prevented them from leaving the Hilton College’s second floor lobby for roughly 10 minutes until the organizer’s attorney intervened.
The Workers Defense Project coordinated today’s protest, collecting around 130 signatures for their petition in support of several construction workers who have allegedly not received their owed prevailing wages and over-time pay.
The group of advocates delivered copies of the petition to audience members at the Board of Regents meeting as well as Austin Industries, the contracted construction company at the center of these allegations. When protesters arrived at the Austin Industries trailer-shack near the Quadrangle Replacement Project construction site, they resorted to taping the petition on the door, as no representative was present when they arrived.
While they marched towards the Hilton College, the group chanted to workers currently on the construction site as a sign of solidarity.
Among the advocates hand-delivering the petition was Daniela Melendez, a UH student and member of the Youth Empowerment Alliance.
“I was kind of nervous, but at the same time I was like, ‘this needs to be done,'” Melendez said of her experience.
Melendez also previously spoke with the workers whose earned pay was allegedly withheld, stating that the affected individuals were happy to have people advocate for them and speak up about what they call an injustice.
The group of over a dozen protesters silently entered the Hilton College Ballroom and awaited their turn to speak before the Board of Regents, despite their requests to speak during open session being denied prior to today.
An organizing member in a bright blue Workers Defense Project t-shirt took the floor during open session, proclaiming that there was injustice surrounding the Quadrangle Replacement Project. They were only able to speak a few sentences before Chairman Tilman Fertitta declared the protester out of order and called for police to escort them out of the ballroom.
Chief Caesar Moore looked on as officers escorted protestors into the lobby, where UHPD demanded to see identification and prevented protestors from leaving the premise.
Officers allowed the group to leave as a representative for Workers Defense Project called their attorney, who had intervened and convinced officers to allow the group to leave.
Often leading the group was Workers Defense Project campaign manager, Arnaldo “Chele” Iglesias. In addition to these workers not receiving their wages, Iglesias also states that “they aren’t giving any time for breaks, and if they do it’s very little time.”
Iglesias does not place the blame for the treatment of these workers on the University of Houston, but feels as though the meeting was an appropriate avenue to bring attention to the injustices going on.