CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new hotel on Kanawha Boulevard is being built primarily by nonunion, out-of-state workers, and the owner has been unresponsive when contacted by union contractors looking to bid on the project, according to local union officials.
Back in February, construction began on an upscale hotel facility, part of the Courtyard by Marriott chain, on Kanawha Boulevard near the intersection of the Elk and Kanawha rivers.
Just half a mile away, the Ramada Inn, formerly the Charleston House Holiday Inn, is employing almost exclusively local, union workers as it renovates its entire building.
"Some of those guys at the Courtyard [by] Marriott are making only one-third of the money that our folks would be making," said Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, an AFL-CIO affiliate.
Union construction workers make $27 an hour or more, plus benefits, compared to $9 an hour paid to some workers at the Courtyard by Marriott project, White said.
Terry Bevins is supervising the Marriott project for VIC of West Virginia, a Fayetteville-based contractor in charge of construction.
"This is all private money. This is not a state or federal project, like a bridge or a road," Bevins said. "We are not being partial or nonpartial to union or to non-union workers. We are working to meet our budget."
Work began on the Courtyard by Marriott on Feb. 28, Bevins said, and the new hotel will be completed a year from now. Bevins described it as a "higher-end hotel" and said it will have 120 rooms.
Today, the construction site has separate entrances for union and nonunion contract workers.
The "Union Gate," on Virginia Street, is reserved for workers employed by: Brewer & Co. of WV, Berkel & Co., Essore & Co., Raynes & Co., Shindler Elevator Corp. and West Virginia Paving.
"All other persons are prohibited from using this entrance," the sign states.
The "Non-Union Gate," on Kanawha Boulevard, is the entrance for workers employed by: Venture LLC, VIC of WV, McTech, Hi Tech Electric Inc., Cross Construction Co., Carpet Doctor, Mr. Roofer and Adams Tile and Stucco.
Jessica Stadd, a Marriott International spokeswoman in Bethesda, Md., said she could not comment on working conditions or wages at the Charleston construction site.
"As this is a franchise property, please reach out to the owning company, VIM Inc., who should best be able to help you," Stadd said Friday.
Charles H. Wendell, the owner of VIM Inc., which stands for Virginia Inn Management, could not be reached for comment. He did not return messages left at his offices in Fayetteville, W.Va., and in Charleston, S.C., on Friday and Saturday.
Wendell also is a director and "registered agent" for Charleston Hotel Venture LLC, one of the groups investing in the new Courtyard by Marriott.
M. Scott Brewer, who represents the Huntington local union in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, said he repeatedly has tried to reach Wendell.