Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pickets protest contractor at job site

Union carpenters have been picketing at 48th and Broadway to protest some work being done by a nonunion contractor.

Mike Martin, business representative for Carpenters and Joiners Local 189, said the picketing began Monday because the union feels that Maas Construction "is not paying area standards" in wages and benefits to its workers.

Jerry Maas, owner of the construction company, refutes that claim. Maas says his nonunion employees not only are paid a fair wage but probably make more in a year than most union workers do.

"I guess what they call 'area standards' and what everybody else calls 'area standards' are just two different things," Maas said.

Martin said no union carpenters are doing work on a Maas Construction job site in a portion of the former K's Merchandise building.

"He (Maas) is not a union contractor, so our guys wouldn't be able to go to work for him," Martin said. "So we're basically informing the public that we don't believe he's paying area standards — and that's wages and benefits."

Maas admits his firm is "not union and I don't hire a lot of union carpenters." However, he says he has a regular crew of solid, reliable employees who are given a fair wage and a wide range of benefits, including health insurance, pension and paid holidays.

Union carpenters "want to work for one wage and work six months out of the year, and we work for another wage and work all year round," Maas said.

"I've got guys that have been with me 10 to 20 years, and they work all year round, and they're making more money than those guys, regardless of what they tell you."

Maas believes the picketing is intended to try to prevent him from winning a bid to build the new County Market store that will go inside the old K's Merchandise building. Bidding is currently under way for that project, and Maas Construction is one of the bidders.

"They're trying to squeeze Niemann Foods into not hiring us if we're the low bidder," Maas said.

A pet supply shop has already been built on the west side of the old K's complex. Maas said his crew is currently working on a Pampered Pets business that will occupy about 1,000 square feet in one corner of the 88,000-square-foot building.

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