Who's working on the Music City Center? - WSMV Channel 4

Who's working on the Music City Center?

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The impressive design of the downtown Music City Center is coming to life.

But what has become of the plans and promises for a local workforce, Nashville's own "economic stimulus?"

The Channel 4 I-Team has been digging into the payroll records of everyone on the job this first year of construction.

Is the "vast majority" of the labor "local," as the mayor repeatedly promised? Channel 4 has discovered there is absolutely no way for the public to know.

On March 22, 2010, ground was broken at a ceremony that included golden shovels, hard hats and a welcome promise from Mayor Karl Dean.

"We celebrate the men and women who have jobs and will have jobs in the days and months to come," said Dean at the ceremony.

By June, eager workers were asking, "How do I sign on?"

Four months later, job seekers took to the streets protesting.

More than a year into Music City Center Construction, some of the same workers Channel 4 met last summer said they've simply given up trying to get a job.

So, who is working now at the gigantic Convention Center site? Where are they from? The Channel 4 I-Team discovered that there's no telling.

"We have absolutely no clue how many locals are represented on this job, and that's the problem," said Richard Rehberg, IUOE union representative. "The authority and the Dean administration don't know either."

The union that represents workers up in cranes and on all kinds of digging and moving machines said out of more than a 1,000 local members, maybe 10 are employed on the Music City Center.

The union asked to examine the first year of certified payroll.

"First of all, the authority redacted the addresses. They blacked them out. Many of the contractors are not even reporting the worker's address to the authorities," said Rehberg. "So, honestly, if the government can't calculate the local hires, we're certainly stumped as to how we're supposed to do it."

No addresses, not even hometowns or zip codes.

However, Ceco Concrete had promised 84 percent local participation. But a journeyman carpenter on the Ceco payroll is from Chicago. We can tell from the deduction for his union dues.

And one statement shows a state income tax payment, which means they're not from Tennessee.

For whatever reason, Channel 4 found the same workers are drawing two checks for the very same work week.

"We've never got that explained. We've never got a lot of things explained," said Red Patterson of the IUOE Local 369.

These guys are apparently working on "other projects."

"I would hope it's not something unrelated to the Music City Center, but I can't even guess what it is," said Rehberg.

More than once, a check has been issued to a worker with no name at all.

"Why is the crane operators union finding this and questioning it?" asked Rehberg. "Who in the government charged with overseeing a $600 million project is reading these certified payrolls and questioning it saying hey there is some information that is missing and there is some weird information and we need to fill in some blanks here. You've got to read this stuff."

By the way, Ceco Concrete is just about done with its $42 million share of the job.

"Every bit of that info is a public record," said attorney Larry Woods.

Woods said in his view secrecy equals suspicion.

"It is the most valuable. The most important information, to conceal it, to block it clearly says to me as a litigator something's going on. Something's not right," said Woods. "This is a multi-million almost billion dollar project, so if they're going to start the project by withholding and concealing information, it has to scare us about what they're going to do by the time its over."

Representatives of the Music City center refused to do an interview, but did meet with Channel 4 News off camera.

They stressed that neither the state or city requires contractors to put addresses on certified payrolls.

"The data is there. I don't know of any employer that for emergency purposes, for W2 reporting purposes, does not require an address, so they've got the addresses. There's no question about that, they're simply withholding and concealing the addresses," said Woods.

The authority says based on what information companies have provided, the April payroll showed 61.8 percent of the workers on site were from Davidson County and the surrounding area, 74.1 percent were from Tennessee.

Two hundred people have been hired on site by the workforce development program and 1,800 resumes have been passed on to subcontractors for consideration.

Those numbers are apparently hidden somewhere in this.

"What are they hiding that they don't want us to know where these guys are from," said Patterson. "This was sold to Nashville as a stimulus, so if it was sold as a stimulus to Nashville it isn't working for Tennessee residents. And our members are disgusted; they live here, they practice here, they buy groceries here, they shop here for clothes, they buy their cars here, and they're shut off."

The Music City Center Authority says its lawyers urged the "blacking out" of workers addresses, zip codes and hometowns, saying release of that information could violate employees rights and expectation of privacy under the state and US constitution.

The union says the convention center authority was worried it might "recruit" door to door, which the union denies.

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