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St. Louis Members Picket Carpenters Phony Trade Show


January 5,2011

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When Steve Schoemehl, business manager of St. Louis Local 1 heard about a trade show scheduled by local electrical contractors who have signed sweetheart contracts with the Carpenters, he knew it was time for action.

Schoemehl, who is also a member of the IEC, told 300 members gathered at an early December meeting that if they were serious about protecting their jobs,  they would show up to picket outside the Dec. 7 trade show and bring twice as many members with them.  The message got through.

Six hundred members showed up at the Local 1 hall where they were shuttled to a picket line.  Despite extremely cold weather, members manned the picket line outside the Carpenters hall where the Associated Electrical Contractors of Greater St. Louis has its office from 3 to 9 p.m.. Says Schoemehl:

I’m so proud that our members came out on such a brutally cold night to send the message: “Do Not Patronize Hypocrisy.”

While the Carpenters circulate handbills all over town against contractors and businesses that undermine their wages and benefits, says Schoemehl, “that is exactly what ‘so-called Local 57’ is doing to the IBEW.”

Terry Nelson, president of the Carpenters district based in St. Louis, launched Local 57 in 2008, signing contracts with electrical contractors, providing 20 percent less in compensation to electricians who perform similar work under IBEW contracts.

The picket drew support from Illinois locals representing jurisdictions also being penetrated by the Associated Electrical Contractors.

Business Managers Scott Hassall, Collinsville Local 309, and Jack Tueth, Alton Local 649 picketed.  In June, Tueth’s local picketed outside a Carpenters hall in the local’s jurisdiction protesting the use of Carpenters to perform electrical work on construction of a Wal-Mart.

Also picketing were members of West Frankford Local 702 and International Representatives from the Sixth and Eleventh districts outside the trade show that only drew about 70 people. Says Schoemehl:

We need to be everywhere the Carpenters are. We will be on the ground, at the National Labor Relations Board—wherever we need to be.

That’s not idle talk.

Last summer, 3,000 trades members protested against Local 57.  The action drew national press attention.

In July, Birkel Electric was forced to terminate its contract with the Carpenters due to a National Labor Relations complaint filed by the IBEW.

The Carpenters have already lost several contractors, says Schoemehl and are under pressure from some general contractors and the owners’ community.

The picket and rally were widely covered in the St. Louis media, including a story in the Construction News and Real Estate.  Schoemehl told the newspaper that the picket was not directed at Carpenter members. He said;

We know many rank and file carpenters feel the same way we do but the Carpenters District Council has attempted to silence any opposition.  We want to show our support for the dues-paying members of the CDC who oppose their dues being used to fund a nonunion trade that has no benefit to rank-and-file carpenters.

Says International President Edwin D. Hill:

The solid activism of  IBEW brothers and sisters is defending the jobs of our members, not just in St. Louis, but across the U.S. We are letting the Carpenters know that they will be opposed wherever and whenever they try to set up shop and play games with our futures.”

For more information visit the Web site, “Local 57 Facts.”