RC Andersen takes steps to tackle the noose on Amazon’s job site


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Neil Ascion, vice president at general contractor RC Anderson in Fairfield, New Jersey, wants the world to know his company’s strengths and commitment to safety and social justice at its worksites. “We are very good contractors,” Ascione said in an exclusive interview with Construction Dive, speaking about the challenges of the $250 million fulfillment center project his company is building for Amazon in Windsor, Connecticut, where an eighth noose has been discovered. The job site closed for the second time in a week. “Unfortunately, we are not very good at dealing with the media,” Assion added. The company has received a barrage of attention over the past few weeks, with news outlets from the New York Times to the BBC circulating about the diphtheria incidents. Neil Asción Askion’s perspective illustrates the experience of a regional contractor who takes pride in his work, but suddenly finds herself at the center of a circulating international news story about racism and social justice in America, while working for the fourth largest company on the planet. Now Ascione and RC Andersen want the construction community and the world to know how seriously they take the accidents that were first discovered on the job site on April 27, and continued over the course of a month at the 3.7 million square foot facility. Ascion, who noted that the contractor’s standard non-disclosure agreement with Amazon initially caused reluctance to comment publicly on the incidents, said Ascion. But after obtaining approval, Ascione said his client to address the situation now, “we have to get our message out there.” Addressing the issue After the first rope was discovered on April 27, Ascione said RC Andersen immediately contacted the local Windsor Police Department to report a hate crime. Retrieved from Fox 61 News on May 4, 2021. “RC Andersen considers the behavior involved here to be not only offensive, but disgusting,” the company said in a prepared statement provided to Construction Dive. “As such, RC Andersen is working aggressively with Amazon to find out who may have engaged in this behavior in order to get it removed from our project, but also to prevent such outrage from harming this project again.” The company has also consulted with police about providing more On-site security, a concern for workers. He said there are now approximately six officers on the job site during business hours, and at least one officer is stationed there overnight. “The hate symbol is one thing,” Ascione said. “But violent action against one of our workers would be the absolute worst case scenario. We cannot harm anyone on our work site.” Toolbox talks and contract language As COVID-19 mitigation protocols banned all 400 workers from bringing together for a site-wide safety moratorium, the company distributed anti-harassment materials to its crews, and ordered nearly 70 companies working on the project to talk about Toolbox to discuss what happened. She also emphasized the zero-tolerance clauses she writes in all of her sub-contracts, to make it clear that whoever hung the noose was an offender. “We have language in every one of our contracts that says we will not tolerate any discrimination in our jobs, and that if we see anyone commit a hateful act, we reserve the right to remove them from the job site,” he said. The contractor also offered an initial reward of $5,000 for information in the case, which was quickly increased to $50,000 and then $100,000. Ascione said the cost is being shared by RC Andersen, Amazon, Indianapolis-based Scannell Properties and a few subcontractors as they work. “Immediate thought there were 400 people on this project, so if there was only one person committing this act, there would likely be 399 witnesses,” Ascione said. “We wanted to give them the right motivation to move forward.” Two days after the initial gallows was found, five more ropes were discovered that could be interpreted as gallows. Soon the FBI joined the investigation, as did the Connecticut State Police by order of Governor Ned Lamont, and the NAACP began calling for more aggressive action to root out the perpetrators. Then on May 19, a seventh noose was found, and the site was closed for the first time to increase security. More cameras While there were already cameras on site to track the progress of the project – an increasingly common practice in commercial construction – after the second incident, RC Andersen began installing additional security cameras. Ascione said there are more than 100 sites on the site today, in an effort to cover as much of the project as possible. “The challenge is that it’s a 3.7 million square foot building, and the iron is still under construction,” Ascione said. “You can’t have a camera on the front edge of the steel before more steel is installed.” The eighth gallows was found at the site on May 26, and the site was shut down a second time, just a day after work resumed and just hours before a scheduled meeting between RC Andersen, Amazon and the NAACP at the site, which Ascione said the company now hopes to restore. scheduling. After the second shutdown, Amazon said it was reviewing RC Andersen, as well as Indianapolis-based developer Scannell Properties, “to make sure it maintains the expected standards for the Amazon project,” Kelly Nantel, Amazon’s director of national media relations, said in an email statement. “We will make any appropriate changes to this project, including re-evaluating our partnerships, to ensure these high standards.” Ascione said that in addition to the bonus money, the layoffs that halted the workflow added costs. “In construction, the starts and stops are always tough,” Ascione said. “With these challenges comes an increased cost.” Focusing on Mental Health Driven by a concern for the mental health of workers, especially workers of color, Ascione said RC Andersen had given its subcontractors the option to reassign anyone who no longer wished to work on the project, although he said they were not. None of the divers who did this are known. He said Amazon also provides advisory services to workers on the job. “At the end of the day, our performance will be what we will ultimately be evaluated on, so our goal is to make sure we perform at the highest level possible.” Neil Ascione Vice President, RC Andersen In addition, RC Andersen has now appointed an external counsel and former prosecutor specializing in hate crimes to lead its own on-site internal investigation and help law enforcement hold responsible and prevent it from happening. repeatedly. Despite those efforts, the culprits have not been identified, and Amazon issued its statement Thursday saying it will re-evaluate the general contractor and developer whether they are maintaining its expected standards. Asked about Amazon’s reassessment of its work, Ascione said the company’s focus is on building its project and the safety of its workers. “We just need to do our best on site and in the construction of this project to make sure all workers are safe,” Ascione said. “At the end of the day, our performance will be what we will ultimately be evaluated on, so our goal is to make sure we perform at the highest level possible.”


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