The parade route showcased the city’s prioritization of developers over workers and communities. Navy Yard is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the capital city, and has also experienced one of Washington’s most profound demographic shifts in recent years. An analysis from DataLensDC found that the neighborhood became whiter and wealthier at a faster rate than any other area in the city over the last decade.
Activists engaged with office workers and residents near the ritzy riverfront, passing out fliers about wage theft in the construction industry to curious onlookers. A small team also spoke with crews on the construction sites along the parade route. Those workers received a separate pamphlet that listed proper licensing requirements, along with a number for workers to call to receive assistance.
Luis Gonzalez, a business representative with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was among the group speaking with construction workers on the job. He spoke about the subcontractor’s exploitation of the Latinx community, and was especially concerned for the undocumented workers facing additional barriers to speaking out against wage theft. It was time to tell Power Design to go home, Gonzalez said. “This is our home.”
The message was echoed by Sapna Pandya, Executive Director of Many Languages One Voice, a D.C. immigrant-led community organization that houses the Committee for Labor Solidarity and Worker Power. There’s a need to ensure D.C. laws actually work for workers, Pandya told the crowd. “It’s not an abstract issue. It’s a real issue that impacts D.C. on a daily basis.” The city could pass great laws, Pandya said, they still need to be enforced in order to protect workers.
That’s why several activists also spoke with developers and general contractors along the parade route who worked with Power Design, to let them know they were also responsible for any violations that occurred on their sites. Most of them were “rather stone-faced” as they listened, Perry Redd, the Employment Advocacy Director at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, told the crowd. But one company — Clark Construction — said they were willing to work with the group and comply with labor laws and standards.
While Redd said there was plenty to be done to ensure the promise was more than rhetoric, it was a good start. “That’s exactly what we’ve come to do — agitate, disrupt, and get them straight,” Redd said. “We passed along the message that exploitation will not be accepted.”