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(Photo courtesy Marty Mulcahy/The Building Tradesman.)
Local 58, Detroit, Michigan, member Thomas Smith, an inside journeyman wireman employed by Midwest Power and Design, duct tapes 4-inch primary and secondary conduits at the new Carhartt Company headquarters in Dearborn. As a goodwill gesture, Carhartt provided each union construction worker on the project with complimentary work apparel, and Brother Smiths new winter coat is hanging at right. Smith said there are a lot of Carhartts in his closet. "I love em, theyre the best," he said.

Union Construction For Union Work Clothes

For more than a century, building trades workers have been big customers for Carhartt Corporation, a leading manufacturer of quality work clothes.

Back in 1997, however, building trades unions had some serious issues with Carhartt. At the time, the company had contracted a new distribution center to be built in Hanson, Kentucky, with much of the construction work being done by a nonunion general contractor.

Trade union activism kicked in right away. Local trades members contacted their state building trades, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, and Carhartt itself, to complain about work going to substandard contractors.

The company subsequently demonstrated it heard the concerns of union working men and women loud and clear. Carhartt President Mark Valade met with AFL-CIO Building Trades President Edward C. Sullivan and promised to employ union workers in all new Carhartt construction in the United States.

Since then, Carhartt has made it a point to employ union labor to build two major projects: the new and nearly completed 57,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, and the 28,500 square-foot expansion of Carhartts Robert C. Valade Customer Service Center in Hanson, Kentucky.

IBEW Local 58, Detroit, Michigan members, along with many other trade unionists, can be found at work on the Dearborn headquarters. IBEW Local 58 Business Manager Jeff Radjewski reports that Local 58 journeyman inside wiremen and apprentices on the Carhartt headquarters project currently are working with two contractors, Maryland Electric and Midwest Power and Design.

Members of Local 1701, Owensboro, Kentucky, are currently at work on the service center expansion in Hanson. Unlike the initial construction, the project is 100 percent union.

Construction of the $7 million Dearborn headquarters began in October 2002, and the two-level structure is on target to be completed by June 30. Carhartt Corporation has praised the skill of union trades people on its construction projects.

"In our two major construction projects currently in process, the superior work ethic and craftsmanship of local union workers is obvious, as is their training and professionalism," said Carhartts Valade. "Without question, well continue to use the excellent talents of union workers in all future Carhartt expansion projects."

Carhartt has been manufacturing work-wear since 1889. Today the company owns and operates 13 unionized manufacturing facilities and two unionized distribution centers, employing approximately 1,800. "Since the unionization of all our manufacturing facilities more than a century ago, weve maintained a very strong bond with local unions and their members," says Valade. "We are truly honored to be trusted to serve the needs of union workers throughout this country and are confident that the unrivaled quality of work done by the building and construction trades will far exceed our expectations."

The union labor-Carhartt partnership serves as a reminder for all working people to look for and demand a union label.


June 2003 IBEW Journal