No Union at the Union?
Union members to picket The Union at Dearborn housing project
Published February 19, 2013 • 3 comments
By SARAH LEWIS, Editor-in-Chief
ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor
On Friday February 22, members of the United Association of Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will be holding an informational picket on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus to notify students of the non-union work force utilized for the construction of The Union at Dearborn.
Paul VanOss, Business Representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said “Our whole issue is where they’re getting people.” VanOss explained that sometimes non-union contractors work with a higher ratio of apprentices to journeymen than do union contractors.
Apprentices are more inexperienced workers, while journeymen have attended trade schools. “We have beautiful training facilities where our workers learn,” VanOss began. “It’s important where you get your education, and unions can provide that solid pay.”
“There is no anti-union animus,” said Larry Winokur, managing partner at Urban Campus Communities (the company constructing The Union). Although Jon DeRoo, Business Agent for the United Association of Plumbers, said that supporting non-union workers is a clear encouragement of non-union working conditions which could include low pay, little to no insurance benefits, and poor working hours.
“We’re not just selfish union guys. Non-union jobs got kicked to the curb once. You don’t see any older guys working non-union. You’re doing a better thing for the community by using union labor,” Lee Astrauckas, Business Representative for the Sheet Metal Workers International Association said.
Winokur explained that because of the building schedule for The Union, many contractors were not available to do the job, although they gave contractors the chance with competitive bidding opportunities in all trades.
“The University of Michigan-Dearborn has always built union, but they’re using a hands-off approach since it’s from a private developer,” said DeRoo.
According to Winokur, The Union at Midtown complex near Wayne State University was built with approximately 60 percent union contractors. While the project at UM-Dearborn is “not completely bid out,” it appears to be 40 to 50 percent union.
Although Winokur said that the lowest bidder does not always win and reputation and experience are considered, the unions disagree. “It’s all about money,” VanOss said.
“We want to let the students know what is going on [at the informational picket],” DeRoo said.