More than a dozen labor advocates and union members rallied outside a construction site at 1330 Dickerson Pike on Thursday demanding better treatment and fair payment for the workers at the development. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating contracting company CPR Construction on charges of coercion, retaliation and worker misclassification at the job site.

The charges were filed by painters’ union International Union of Painters and Allied Trades/Local 456 after they spoke with workers last year, according to organizer Isabel Felix. Felix says the NLRB is paying “extra attention” to the charges of misclassification.

“They’re being treated like they’re employees, but on paper, they're independent contractors,” says Felix, meaning the workers aren’t receiving certain benefits or being paid appropriately. Worker misclassification is a frequent occurrence in Nashville's construction industry that can also allow contractors to avoid paying workers’ compensation for injuries.

Felix says CPR management would “interrogate” workers about whether they had spoken to the union and that they threatened to deny overtime to anyone who did so — she adds that the union keeps testimonies confidential. She also says some employers would leverage their immigration status against them.

Felix shared a copy of one worker’s testimony with the Scene. The painter recounts being denied overtime, having to bring her own safety supplies and seeing a co-worker fall from a broken ladder, among other complaints.

The construction site was still active the day of the demonstration. Felix says some of those who came forward with complaints were still working that day, so other members of the labor community were present at the demonstration, like advocates from the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

District 5 Councilmember Sean Parker, who represents the area where the site is located, spoke at the rally, thanking the union for making him aware of the charges.

“People talk about the growth that we see here, and we talk about all the developments, [but] none of that is possible without the workers that are out here today,” Parker said to the demonstrators. Then, turning to the workers on the site, said “The ‘It City’ ain’t shit without you!”

Another speaker was Cecilia Prado, whose firing as director of the local worker center Workers’ Dignity spurred staffers at the nonprofit to go on strike this week.

Felix says stories about mistreatment and worker misclassification aren’t uncommon in Nashville’s construction industry. Build sites dot Dickerson Pike thanks to a recent flurry of development over the past few years.

CPR would not offer any statement on the NLRB investigation to the Scene.

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