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Protesters Block Federal Construction Site Over Labor Dispute

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Protestors block a federal construction site, alleging that only 13 percent of those working on the project are from D.C.
Patrick Madden
Protestors block a federal construction site, alleging that only 13 percent of those working on the project are from D.C.

Hundreds of people blocked a federal job site in Southeast D.C. Wednesday to protest the number of D.C. residents hired for the project.

Linking arms to form a blockade at times, protesters were able to turn back a handful of tractor trailers hauling goods to the new Department of Homeland Security building in Ward 8. The group was composed of hundreds of out-of-work residents and labor activists.

Steve Lanning is with the local labor union that organized Wednesday's demonstration. He says the action was sparked by a freedom of information request it filed with the lead construction company that shows only 13 percent of the workers on site are D.C. residents.

He says the District was told more residents would be hired and denies allegations that there weren't enough qualified workers.

"That's a lie that’s been propagated by contractors over and over again; it's sad that politicians want to believe that," says Lanning. "There's a system in place where you can vet a worker or residents skill set, it takes a minimal amount of money and effort to do that. You can place the right person in the right job."

The construction company, as well as the federal government and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, dispute Lanning's figures and say when everything is added up, more than a third of the jobs have gone to District residents -- a good ratio compared to other federal projects.

Federal projects, such as the one at the new DHS site, do not have a mandate that a certain number of jobs go to D.C. residents like similar District projects do.

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