Union pickets Kent construction site

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

About 150 laborers picketed the construction site of Stanton Middle School in Kent this morning raising concerns about non-union, non-local contractors doing work at the site.

Members of the Laborers Local Union 894, including many workers from Kent and Portage County, were protesting againts C.T. Taylor Company Inc., claiming the general contractor for the project had hired non-union contractors from outside the area instead of local, union workers.

Several of the protesters were employees of Horning Concrete, a Kent company passed over for concrete work at the middle school. Medina Supply, a non-union contractor, got the job.

C.T. Taylor of Hudson submitted the lowest bid to do the general contracting of the project. The company then hires other companies to do work like carpentry, masonry work, electrical, concrete, pipe and excavating.

Kenny Holland, business manager for the labor union, said he expects the picketing to continue for the duration of the project.

Holland said almost all the companies hired to do work on the project are non-union contractors, estimating that only the excavators and plumbers are local firms which hire union workers.

He blamed Senate Bill 102, the law that struck down prevailing wage requirements for construction of schools. He said non-union contractors pay lower wages, offer fewer benefits and provide apprenticeship programs for young people who want to learn the building trades.

"They know the union contractors price and bid one or two percent lower so they'll get the job," he said. "But at what cost?"

Lee Atkinson said he is laid off from Horning because of a lack of work, but figures he'd be working if Horning had received the job.

"A lot of us live in the city of Kent, work in the city of Kent and pay taxes in the city of Kent," he said. "Now we're sitting home in the city of Kent."

He said Horning had offered to match the bid offered by Medina Supply, but the Medina firm was still awarded the job.

But Bob Smetzer, vice-president of operations for C.T. Taylor, said Horning missed the bid deadline and offered to match the price a day later. By then, it was too late.

"We're in full compliance with our contract," he said. "We're fulfilling our obligation. We're not required to hire union or non-union contractors."

Superintendent Marc Crail said the matter is out of the district's hands. He said workers from Horning recently met with him about the situation.

"We wish it were Horning also," he said. "But it's not our choice. The general contractors pick their own suppliers. It's not up to us, it's up to them."

He said whenever the district has a choice, it uses local workers whenever possible. The only choice the board had was whether to hire C.T. Taylor or another general contractor, and C.T. Taylor was the low bidder.

"They're a competent company and could do the work," he said. "Taylor has done projects like this before and has a good reputation. All we can do is encourage them to use union contractors."

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