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Old 07-13-2018, 09:52 PM
Newton Daily News Newton Daily News is offline
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Default Workers from Ottumwa’s Bridge City protest at Newton construction site

Two Bridge City Construction workers, who have been on strike for more than a month, met with representatives of the Tri-State Workers Coalition and other organizations Thursday outside a build site in Newton to protest their company’s alleged poor working and safety conditions.

Supporters of William Ragen, of Martinsburg, and Jorge Martinez, of Ottumwa, walked along Iowa Speedway Drive holding signs and chanting “workers’ rights are human rights” to nearby motorists and Bridge City Construction workers leaving the site, which is scheduled to become the new headquarters of Van Maanen Electric, Inc.

Representatives from organizations like the Iowa Poor People’s Campaign, Ottumwa Citizens Against Poverty, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor and Electricians Local 13, among others, showed up to the demonstration in solidarity.

“We’re trying to get them to change their ways,” Ragen said from the picket line Thursday. “We’re trying to get livable wages for the employees and safety training.”

In a June 7 letter addressed to Bridge City Construction, Inc. President Jason Blunt, Ragen and Martinez stated their intent to strike due to “several conditions that adversely affect us and other workers of Bridge City Construction,” which is currently a sub-contractor for the construction site.

Both Ragen and Martinez officially went on strike June 15, a little more than a week later.

The two claim they were subjected to unsafe working conditions, paid low or substandard wages, asked to pay medical bills for work injuries out of pocket, not provided adequate benefits and not provided the proper tools to perform job duties safely.

The letter also claims Bridge City Construction failed to supply its workers at the Newton site with water — an action which Ragen and Martinez said has since been corrected — and personal protective safety equipment, which is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Ragen said he had to purchase his own safety helmet and fall protection harness to use on the job site. He also said he supplied his own power tools like a Dewalt drill and 3/4 inch impact wrench; the latter tool broke, which Ragen said would be deducted from his pay.

While working, Ragen had a tooth knocked out and said Bridge City Construction will not pay for his medical treatment

During the protest, Tri-State Workers Coalition lead member Stu Steffens said he planned to hand out pamphlets to Bridge City Construction workers, encouraging them to stand up against the alleged offenses and voice their own concerns.

“We want to show the workers that these guys are fighting for all of them and not just themselves,” Steffens said.

Steffens previously reached out to employees to listen to their experiences. Some of which, he claimed, were told not to speak to Steffens.

The Newton Daily News sought comment from officials at Bridge City Construction but no phone calls were returned. A spokesperson for Van Maanen Electric, Inc. declined to comment about Thursday’s protest.

Contact Chris Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or

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