By ED FINKELSTEIN
As children and staff returned in full force to Sumner and Roosevelt High Schools, more evidence has turned up that lax enforcement by the St. Louis School District of its own construction requirements may have allowed one major subcontractor to provide what appears to be inaccurate, possibly altered, documents after the awarding of a remodeling contract for the two high schools that allowed dangerous lead-based paint dust to infiltrate throughout the schools.
Investigations by Painters & Allied Trades District Council 2 supplemented by additional efforts by the Labor Tribune have turned up some questionable practices and results that raise serious questions about oversight of the $155 million Prop S campaign passed by voters May 2010.
The latest revelations revolve around the lack of 10 hours of safety training documentation the general contractor – Raineri Construction – is supposed to have provided for all its workers, including subcontractors, in its bid response. That documentation was not there when the Labor Tribune reviewed Raineri’s bid. In response to a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request for the data, the district had to first request it from the contractor, long after the work was underway.
A review of the documents finally provided showed many glaring deficiencies:
• Two OSHA training sessions for Rice painters were allegedly held on June 27 and July 27, 2013. However, Terry Carroll, the trainer from Enviroworld Consulting providing the training told the Labor Tribune that he conducted only ONE training session for Rice Painting, on June 27 for 12 workers. He said he conducted NO July 27 session even though his name appears on three Rice painters’ certification cards dated July 27;
• Of the 12 OSHA course completion cards provided to the school district from Rice, nine are dated June 27 and three are dated July 27 carrying Carroll’s signatures, a date Carroll re-confirmed in a second interview with the Labor Tribune that he did no training for Rice painters.
• Of the three questionable training certification cards dated July 27 (when Carroll conducted no training) two of them are in the sequence numbers from the cards issued to painters in the June 27 training session. The format of the two stray cards is the same as the legitimate June 27 cards. However, the third card is not only a totally different format, the printing of the painter’s name is totally different from Carroll’s and this card carries a signature that appears to be Carroll’s; the only problem is that on all 11 other cards, Carroll prints his name, none are an actual signature.
In looking at the OSHA training certification cards submitted by other painters on the same job whose training took place in previous years, it appears this rogue OSHA certification card’s format is one that was used in previous years and was apparently changed in 2010.
Then there is the damaging testimony of a painter on the job that said in a written affidavit, “There were dates forged on some OSHA cards…”
• For one of the painters working for Huddy Painting who signed an affidavit of violations on the job, he candidly admits, “I did not have a 10 hour OSHA card.” A list Huddy employees obtained by the Labor Tribune through its FOI request does not list that individual as an employee.
The issue of OSHA safety training is only one of a number of shortcomings and violations in the Raineri bid that have been discovered and previously reported by the Painters District Council and the Labor Tribune which questions the oversight of the project by the district itself and the Prop S committee that fought so hard for the funding for the school renovation efforts. Among them:
• Prevailing wages not being paid Huddy and Rice painters despite a specific requirement in the RFP.
• Not reporting that Raineri and Rice had previous OSHA safety violations and paid substantial fines as a result;
• Neither painting subcontractor is identified on Raineri’s subcontractor list as required; three other subs are identified;
• 10-hour safety training certificates were not attached to the proposal as required and were not made available until a Labor Tribune FOI request;
• Minority and women worker requirements for the two painting subcontracts have not been met, according to the Painters union.
• Questionable disposal of lead paint chips that were swept up into regular plastic bags instead of the hazardous material bags required in OSHA regulations;
• The lack of proper safety equipment for painters doing lead paint removal. The sad fact, according to one painter’s affidavit, the painters were NOT informed that lead paint was even present.
• The lack of OSHA-defined containment to prevent lead based paint dust flowing into other areas.
Noted one painter, “When I started the project nothing was ever said about lead based paint. I was not given any personal protected equipment.” Another painter said, “I was told there is no lead in the schools that I was working in.”
“This contract is an outrage of the worst proportions given the kinds of violations we’ve found,” said Painters Organizer Page Lucks.
“The really obscene thing about this is that the safety of children has been put at risk. Who knows what lead paint residues are hidden in crevices and cracks all over the place?”
As the Labor Tribune went to press, the Painters Union had been invited by the district’s Executive Director of Operations Roger CayCe into both high schools to ascertain for itself if the schools were now clean, which CayCe said was the case. The union planned on testing areas throughout the schools and sending them to an independent laboratory to determine if any lead still existed since the cleanup. Details of that visit were not yet available.