Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pulte turns high pressure improvised water cannon on legally picketing workers

Hat tip to Tedski at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.

Last April, the AFL-CIO announced their intention to organize thousands of construction workers in Arizona and Nevada who worked for Pulte Homes. As the union said according to an article at the time in the Las Vegas Review Journal, it called Pulte the "Wal-Mart of home developers." Pulte employs numerous subcontractors, but according to the union does not hold them to high standards of worker treatment.

On May 29, Pulte responded by announcing they were cutting 1,900 jobs nationwide, including a reduction of their Phoenix based workforce from three divisions to two. While it is true that the housing market has cooled and Pulte recently canceled plans to build a development in Benson, it is clear from this move that they consider their heavy use of subcontractors to be more important than even their own workforce. Of course, people in Anthem already know a little about how Pulte operates: According to an article in the Arizona Republic on May 28 (unfortunately online links via AZCentral are only good for seven days but the print edition is still available)

Del Webb, a Pulte Homes company, built the Anthem community in 1999. Residents said Del Webb didn't disclose that the cost of providing the community with water would come back to haunt them eight years later.

Oh, and one other thing-- most of the workforce is Hispanic, many from Mexico (I don't know what their legal immigration status is and that is irrelevant to the abuses you will see in a moment.)

Maybe you agree with the objectives of the union. Maybe you don't. But workers have a legal right to picket, which is exactly what right they were exercising outside a construction site in Florence, Arizona yesterday.

The workers who were in the picket line were fired from companies Pulte subcontracts with for speaking up about working conditions--specifically for being forced to work during their lunch breaks and for not being given enough water to hydrate during the day (note that the high temperature in Phoenix yesterday was 113 degrees).

Pulte executives responded, after threatening to have leaders of the picket line arrested (I guess they then figured out that the cops know what the law is and wouldn't arrest them for demonstrating legally), by the use of a water cannon-- actually an improvised one, setting the company spray truck to deliver high pressure water. Some of it was sprayed directly on protesters. Whether they would have done this at a crowd of predominantly anglo workers is not an unreasonable question to ask.

The AFL-CIO will show a videotape of the incident at a news conference tomorrow but it is already available on U-Tube linked here.

There is a reason why the police are reluctant to use water cannons as an example of 'non-lethal force.' It is because they can and have at times in the past caused serious injury, both if they happen to hit a vulnerable area of the body (like the eyes or the ears) and if they cause people to fall at an accelerated rate of speed.

This is only going to escalate tensions. But maybe that is what they want. Are the Pulte execs so stuck in the sixties (on the wrong side) that they will try tear gas next?

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