Lawmaker doubts immigrants' status at convention center
By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • July 14, 2010
State Rep. Mike Turner said he plans to file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Labor in the coming days alleging that the company managing construction of the new downtown convention center is employing illegal immigrants.
Turner said he was on the site earlier this week in response to an emergency call in his capacity as a Metro firefighter and observed construction workers that he believed were illegal immigrants. Turner also said he has heard from workers on the project who have expressed concern that illegal immigrants are being hired.
"I've been on the site and I've seen people I suspect are illegal, and I've been told by some people working on the site they have illegals there," Turner said.
Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman and a long-time firefighters union member, said he approached project leaders with an array of concerns two weeks ago. Besides questioning whether illegal immigrants are receiving construction jobs, Turner also questioned the number of union jobs the project is creating.
"I'd like to see all union people on the job, but I want to see local people on the job," Turner said.
According to Turner, his complaint against Bell-Clark, the contractor managing the $585 million project, is being fine-tuned by an attorney.
Turner added that backers of the Music City Center promised the project would bring construction jobs for Nashville-area workers.
"One reason we were behind these centers, when we debated this, was they were going to put local people to work," Turner said. "All of this project is being funded with (federal) Build America bonds, which are supposed to put Americans back to work.
"This construction company is trying to get around that."
Turner said the use of illegal workers carried with it a wide-range of possible repercussions. A first offense could elicit a warning, but subsequent violations could lead to a revocation of a guilty organization's business license