Unions hire non-union picketers – Huh? WTF?

The irony of this story (from the Wall Street Journal) was just too rich to pass up.

WASHINGTON—Billy Raye, a 51-year-old unemployed bike courier, is looking for work.

Fortunately for him, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters is seeking paid demonstrators to march and chant in its current picket line outside the McPherson Building, an office complex here where the council says work is being done with nonunion labor.

“For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else,” explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines. Mr. Raye says he’s grateful for the work, even though he’s not sure why he’s doing it. “I could care less,” he says. “I am being paid to march around and sound off.”

Protest organizers and advocacy groups are reaping an unexpected benefit from continued high joblessness. With the national unemployment rate currently at 9.5%, an “endless supply” of the out-of-work, as well as retirees seeking extra income, are lining up to be paid demonstrators, says George Eisner, the union’s director of organization. Extra feet help the union staff about 150 picket lines in the District of Columbia and Baltimore each day.

So let me get this straight. A union that will picket a job site because a contractor is using non-union labor uses non-union labor to picket? Hmmm…

“Low Pay! Go away!” and “That Rat Gotta Go!” the union stand-ins chanted as other workers banged cow-bells and beat on a trio of empty plastic buckets. Eric Williams, a 70-year-old retiree who said he needs extra cash to buy groceries, wore a sign saying that Can-Am Contractors, a nonunion Maryland drywall and ceiling concern, “does not pay area standard wages & benefits.”

The target of the campaign is the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, which is opening new classrooms on the second floor of the McPherson Building, and is having renovations done, including dry-walling by Can-Am.

“It is bizarre,” says Lynne Baker, a school spokeswoman, about the union’s hiring of nonunion picketers.

Inside, Juan Flores, Can-Am’s foreman, said his nonunionized workers are paid fairly. Of the protesters, he said, “I don’t blame them—they need the money, but they look like they are drunk or something.”

The union’s Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.

He says the pickets are not only about “union issues” but also about fair wages and benefits for American workers. By hiring the unemployed, “we are also giving back to the community a bit,” he says.

Ah, I see – it’s about hiring the unemployed – at minimum wage. How egalitarian of them.

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