A local labor union is claiming that Bowdoin is complicit in the exploitation of construction workers on the site of the future Watson Ice Arena.

Iron Workers Local 7, a union headquartered in South Boston, began distributing fliers this week charging that CCS, the steel erector subcontracted in the construction, does not "abide by community standards regarding wages and working conditions."

Local 7 Business Agent and Industry Analyst Steve Williams told the Orient that Canatal, a steel vendor subcontracted by Procon, Bowdoin's general contractor for the ice arena project, refused to award the job to Arc Welding, a unionized company based in Brewer, even though it had offered the most competitive bid. Instead, the job went to CCS, which Williams said uses non-union workers.

Katy Longley, Bowdoin's vice president for finance and administration, said Canatal?which is based in Canada?has told Bowdoin officials that it simply did not receive Arc's bid.

Longley said the College knows very little about the legitimacy of Local 7's claim. She said that the school's general contractor, Procon, is responsible for labor relations. This is the first time the school has hired the firm, she said, which has experience building ice arenas.

"This is pretty unusual," Longley said, adding that Bowdoin has not been involved in any labor disputes during her seven years at the school. "I'm not sure exactly what happened."

The flier that Local 7 has been disseminating cites a monograph written by Professor of Economics David Vail on the "core values and successes in rural development," and contrasts those values with those the union believes CCS represents.

Vail said Local 7 did not contact him about the issue, and that the flier's indictment is "a little misleading," because the work of his that it excerpts addresses the rural economy, not the coastal economy, and focuses on the tourism and healthcare industries, not construction.

"I was a little taken aback that they had used my work to support their position," he said.

Vail added that although he does not know enough about the situation at hand to pass any sort of judgment, he generally favors unions and wishes the flier's authors had contacted him so that he could have led them to a work more relevant to the union's grievance.

In 2006, all structural iron and steel workers in Cumberland County were paid $21.50 per hour on average. According to Williams, the average pay for unionized workers in northern New England is $20.95 per hour. Williams said that according to Local 7's records, CCS has faced litigation in the past for supplementing low wages with hourly per diems in an effort to avoid paying taxes. The Orient was unable to verify this information independently, nor was it able to obtain information on how much CCS is paying its workers on the ice arena project.

Asked whether he thought he and his coworkers on the site were being underpaid, one construction worker, John Bernard, said, "Of course [we] are."

Longley said Bowdoin representatives plan to meet soon with representatives from Procon, Canatal, Arc Welding, and Local 7 to discuss the matter. A date for the meeting has not been set.

?Seth Walder contributed to this report.