Solidarity grows for fired roofers

TUCSON – Union and community supporters reacted with anger when they heard of Metric Roofing’s latest attack on workers and their right to organize. Metric Roofing has fired or suspended six of the seven Roofers Union organizing committee members on its workforce in the last two weeks.

More than 60 labor and community members showed up at Metric for a spirited predawn picket on Nov. 8. Metric Roofing, which subcontracts with all the major homebuilders in Tucson, has a record of anti-worker and anti-union abuse. Roofers have accused Metric of repeatedly cheating them on piecework, and even of refusing to supply the roofers with water on the job. Just imagine what it’s like to be up on a roof in Arizona’s summer heat when the temperature reaches 110 degrees or more in the shade.

Joining the fired roofers in solidarity were machinists (IAM), communication workers (CWA), carpenters, electrical workers (IBEW), and state, county, and municipal workers (AFSCME).

Tucson’s Jobs with Justice made an especially successful effort to mobilize on very short notice. Student activists with the University of Arizona’s Students against Sweatshops were also there, as were immigrant rights activists with the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos and the Border Action Network. Arizona roofers are predominantly immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Arizona Roofers Union Organizer Victor Griego thanked the pickets for their show of solidarity. “You guys give strength to these workers,” he said, promising that the organizing drive and protests of the firings will continue. Griego also pledged the support of his union to all others in struggle.

The United Union of Roofers and Waterproofers started their “Justice for Roofers” campaign in Arizona in 2000 with zero union roofers in the state. Since then more than 800 roofers, most of them immigrants, have won contracts. This figure represents close to 30 percent of roofers working in residential construction. The Roofers Union is taking organizing seriously, spending 40 to 50 percent of their national budget on organizing. That commitment of resources, and the building of broad community support, has led to successful organizing drives, said Griego.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net