Washington, D.C. area bricklayers are upset that stonemasons from China are being used to build the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall, the Washington Post reports. "Why do they need to come over to do the work when there are so many people here who can do it?" said the head of the local Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers union.
The controversy started in 2007 when the memorial foundation selected a Chinese sculptor instead of an American artist. Then earlier this year, the union discovered the sculptor planned to use a dozen Chinese laborers to help assemble the monument. This spurred union protests in front of the foundation office, but did not prevent work from beginning with foreign laborers.
The Post wrote, “The possibility that cheap imported labor was being used to build any portion of the King memorial was anathema to (the American masons)…The use of Chinese workers at the memorial is also deeply unsettling for a union that has had a hand in building every major monument in Washington since the end of the Civil War.”
The union launched a surreptitious investigation to determine if the foreign workers were being paid lower wages. Officials met with a Chinese worker, who admitted he did not know how much they would be paid because they were not expecting payment until they returned to China. He said they were mostly working for "national honor" and "(t)o bring glory to the Chinese people." He also said his colleagues knew that Americans wanted their jobs and were mad that the Chinese got them.
Mad, indeed. King had been assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis to support a sanitation workers strike where scab workers were brought in.
For more information, read the Washington Post article.
Updated: Wed, Nov 24th 2010 @ 5:26pm EST