ESPN and its $100-million digital center under construction at its Bristol headquarters are in the spotlight once again after a protest this morning by about 100 Connecticut union construction workers. Among concerns for the protest organizer, the Connecticut Laborers' District Council, are that ESPN allegedly is using non-union contractors for the majority of work and that it is using out-of-state contractors.

Photo by Ralph A. Inorio

The district council has held protests at the 193,000-sq-ft project site since October, alleging that the general manager on the project, Associated Construction Company, Hartford, and site contractor, Mizzy Construction, Plainville, Conn., are non-union shops that undermine area and safety standards and fail to pay workers a living wage.

Mizzy Construction declined to comment on the charges, and Associated did not return calls by press time.

Mike Soltys, vice president of communications at ESPN, says that previous protests at the site have not had an impact on the project, which broke ground last August and is set for completion in 2014. ESPN's Bristol site has had projects under way since its formation in 1979, with the company hiring both union and non-union contractors, he says.

"We have provided hundreds of jobs [to the state of Connecticut] as we continue to grow our campus," Soltys says.

Charlie LeConche, business manager of the district council, says he is pleased with this morning's turnout. The next step includes writing a letter to Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who announced in August that the state would invest $25 million in the ESPN project, LeConche says. "This is not a union issue, it is an industry complaint," LeConche says. He adds that he plans to host a reception in February to talk with state senators about areas of concern in the construction industry, including little or no minority participation on projects and a failure to pay area standard wages.