Protestors line entrance of Isle of Capri construction site
Men in neon-colored T-shirts lined up outside the Isle of Capri construction site Thursday morning to protest the lack of local workers being used for projects at the Westlake casino.l
“We’re here because there is work going on inside from a company that bid the work and then brought in people from out of the area to work,” said David G. Hyatt, president of Southwest Louisiana Buildings and Construction Trades Council. “A lot of people around here suffered storm damage and lost their jobs because of that and COVID. We need local jobs for local people.”
The group did not impede traffic. Nor were they there to stop the work.
“It’s a friendly protest,” Hyatt said. “We called law enforcement and asked them to come to demonstrate our desire to keep it that way.”
A couple of signs read, “Don’t Feed the Rats.” Hyatt said the term is slang used to denote persons who are satisfied with the crumbs.
“There is no disagreement about anything because we haven’t talked,” said Richard Paulk. “They haven’t even contacted us. We want to talk. We’re here.”
Paulk said hundreds of local skilled workers and their families have to go to other states to find work.
“Why is that? I’m fed up. They would love to come home,” he said. “They love Southwest Louisiana.”
Paulk said local contractors would love to bid on these projects and can’t. He is a native of Westlake where the new Isle of Capri is being constructed.
The Isle of Capri general contractor is not leveling the playing field for local people to go to work, according to Hyatt, a heavy equipment operator by trade.
“It’s not just the hourly wage,” Hyatt said. “It’s the benefits, the health insurance. With us, we come with a total package, medical, dental.”
This makes it possible for construction workers who may work at more than one jobsite in a year – and most do – to retain coverage during a layoff or after a job is completed. Hyatt said the Isle of Capri general contractor may provide a coverage plan, but the full premium cost is deducted from the employees’ wages.
“Wages can be negotiated up or down depending on what the work is, if the company really wants to work with the locals in the area,” Hyatt said. “That can be negotiated so the local people can keep their healthcare coverage and the provisions they need to provide for their families.”
“This isn’t going to be the first picket line you see. It’s not just here. It’s going on at all these sites around here,” said Jonathan Waddell, drawing a wide arc with his arm. “In the parking lots of all this industry, the new LNGs, you see more out of state plates than Louisiana plates.”
“Local, skilled labor built The Golden Nugget, L’Auberge, the old Isle of Capri and Players Island,” Paulk said. “Something went wrong here. I don’t know what. I would like to know.”
The American Press left messages asking for comments from LeMoine Commercial Contractor, Ryan Gootee General Contractors and Senior Vice President and General Manager, Isle of Capri (Caesars Entertainment), and did not receive a response.
The Isle of Capri general contractor is not leveling the playing field for local people to go to work, according to David G. Hyatt, president of Southwest Louisiana Buildings and Construction Trades Council and a heavy equipment operator by trade.