Protesting the New Residence Hall

Nearly every morning, a few protesters gather outside the construction site of Wheaton’s new residence hall, holding up signs that proclaim “Wheaton College is bad for the Norton community.” The protestors, who wish to remain anonymous, claim that it is public knowledge that Commodore Builders, the construction company hired for the residence hall construction, do not pay fair and equitable wages to their workers. The protestors want the community to be aware of this. Their other concern, that they want to bring to attention, is that the builders hire workers from out of state; they are concerned that this will result in an outflow of money from the economy, rather than stimulation of the local economy.

Protesters in front of the dorm. Photo by Caroline Chaffiote.

In response to a request for comment, Wheaton College’s employees, Brian Douglas, the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, and John Sullivan, Assistant Vice President of Business Services and Physical Plant, stated that factually, it is accurate that on site, there are both unionized and not unionized workers. Douglas and Sullivan mentioned, however, that in this ‘busy’ job market, Wheaton College must provide competitive wages and benefits to both. The expressed concern by the protesters about the state of origin of the workers is not seen as an issue to Douglas and Sullivan. Workers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and other parts of New England are employed on the site, but people from these states are also employed in other departments of Wheaton College, given the states’ proximity to Wheaton, making it viable for them to commute, and making the definition of a local economy subjective.

Protestor’s sign. Photo by Caroline Chaffiote.

Douglas and Sullivan have met with the protestors on several occasions, and have given them the option of submitting a bid to work on the insulation for the residence hall, once made aware that the protestors belong to an insulators’ union. Douglas and Sullivan have not heard back since. They also state that the reason for the sporadic appearance of the protestors and the fact that it is often not the same people is because the market being incredibly busy and because the protestors are being paid by the union to protest, with an unknown motive.

A few days after the initial interview, the protestors brought out a new sign, bringing up the issue of women and minorities not being employed on site. They have also begun handing out flyers, which carry a similar message, to Wheaton students who walk past. In response, Douglas points out that the composition of the workforce on the construction site changes daily.