Business

Union pickets retail project

"Representatives from Seattle-based Bricklayers Local No.1 showed up Monday morning to picket the Port Orchard construction site where a new Staples office supply store and Walgreens drug store are being built.But it wasn't the retail chains the union took issue with. Rather, it was the project's masonry contractor, M&L Mickelson of Idaho Falls, Idhao, which drew the group's ire.Mickelson, a non-union operation, has not hired any local union members to work on the project at the corner of Bethel Road and Lund Avenue, opting instead to bring in cheaper workers from out-of-state.The going rate for local union masons is $32.77 per hour, according to David Sheppard, president of the Seattle local. The Idaho imports are being paid around $22 an hour.We asked about their benefit package, but they wouldn't tell us anything, which leads me to believe they don't have one, Sheppard said.Mickelson is sub-contractor on the job. Boise, Idaho-based ESI Construction is the general contractor.These people don't live here, they don't pay taxes here, their kids don't attend local schools, Sheppard said. They just come here, collect the local money and leave town.Sheppard contends Mickelson got the contract without going through the standard bidding process. One of our companies was the low bidder on the job, but then Mickelson gets the contract, he said. They can do it because they don't pay a union wage.As an Idaho-based company, Sheppard said Mickelson is also not required to pay Washington State's Department of Labor & Industries for workman's compensation coverage. Instead, the company can pay the lower Idaho rate, which makes it more difficult for local subcontractors to compete with it.Non-union companies also do not set up apprentice training programs for young tradesmen either, Sheppard said.The union has not decided how long the strike at the Port Orchard site will continue, he said.Mickelson could not be reached for comment."

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