Supporters and members of the union Carpenters Local 46 have recently been picketing in front of local businesses to protest the lack of union labor on a developing building in Sacramento. Business owners claim the protests are unjustified.
D&S Development is currently working on the project, 16 Powerhouse, a LEED certified building that will host a number of apartments and businesses at the southeast corner of 16th and P Streets.
Carpenters Local 46 represents carpenters in and around the Sacramento region. Their protests stem from an incident wherein a subcontractor failed to pay their workers for drywall work done. According to Bay Miry of D&S Development, when D&S heard about the non-payment, they proactively amended the situation by paying the workers. In the end, the company paid double for the drywall work done, thus incurring a significant cost impact to D&S even though it wasn’t their wrongdoing, said Miry.
Carpenters Local 46 did not respond to requests for comments, but the message they’re trying to get out is that the development company should be using union labor. And as any organization attempting to get out a message will tell you, sometimes finding a platform can be the trickiest part.
The Union has taken to the heavily trafficked storefronts of future 16 Powerhouse tenants Magpie Cafe and Insight Coffee, handing out fliers that claim the businesses hurt workers, families, and the community because they didn’t require that the landlord requires that the general contractor requires that the sub-contractors pay the union’s wages.
The small business owners are perplexed by the union’s claims since what happens in the construction of the building is out of their hands. The protests leave them particularly bothered by the insinuation that they cheated workers in the interest of making a profit since they make central to their identities treating their workers and the community fairly.
“The future tenants at 16 Powerhouse do not have any financial involvement or decision making power in how the building is constructed or who is hired to work on its construction,” said Miry.
Carpenters Local 46 have been picketing outside the businesses on various occasions for the past month and a half. They are also targeting other future 16 Powerhouse tenants Orchid Thai, B Street Theatre, and Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op.
The fliers they handed out to patrons additionally feature images of skeletons and grim reapers, captioned with the business owners’ names and phone numbers.
“We don’t hold any issue with them, or with unions in general” said Chris Ryan, partner at Insight. “What they are doing is highly misleading.”
To explain why D&S is not using union labor, Miry said, “Our 16 Powerhouse building did not receive public subsidy for its construction so therefore we were not required to use union labor to construct the building…It’s worth noting that our design team, engineers, contractor, and almost all of our subs and vendors are local. And that we are paying market rate wages to our subs and their workers. We feel we have done nothing wrong and have been proactive in explaining the issue.”
Though the businesses are eager to have the protesters gone, short of legal action, they have little recourse.
“We don’t have lawyers or P.R. people,” said Ed Roehr, partner at Magpie. “We are a small, farm-to-table restaurant. We spend our energy making local food and bringing it to Sacramento.”
As for how the protesting has affected business, these local Sacramento haunts seem to have a following of loyal patrons, who remain undeterred by the Union’s claims.
“It definitely hasn’t hurt,” said Charles Roehr, Magpie Café manager. “If anything their sign gets us a little more shade on our patio.”
Completion for 16 Powerhouse is slated for late March.