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Monday, March 18,2013

Labor dispute or union tactic?

Why are people demonstrating in front of Boji Tower?

by Fiona Guo
Monday, June 13 — Demonstrators hired by the trade union Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters have been standing in front of Boji Tower since winter because of a “labor dispute” they have with a local contractor and the building owner.

Demonstrators allege Lansing Tile & Mosaic — the company hired by Boji Group for various building improvements — doesn’t pay area standard wages to its employees. Demonstrators hold a banner reading “Shame on Boji” on a regular basis.

“We are not protesting. We are simply out here, letting people know there is a labor dispute going on. If people choose to learn more information, then we give them a chance to make a decision by giving them a flyer,” said one of the demonstrators on a recent Friday, who refused to give his name and for whom he works.

Demonstrators hand out flyers on the west-facing side of 124 W. Allegan St. in downtown Lansing that read, in part: “A rat is a contractor that does not pay all of its employees Area Standard wages, including either providing or making payments for health care and pension benefits. … The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters believes that BOJI has an obligation to the community to see that area labor standards are met for construction work at all their projects … .”

Jeff Taylor, a business representative at MRCC, said demonstrators are not MRCC members. He said they were hired to stand there and hold the banner, but would not say how much they’re being paid.

“We are just informing the public that Boji Tower uses non-area standards paying contractors to perform their work,” Taylor said, adding that there are no further plans against Boji or Lansing Tile.

However, a Lansing Tile spokesman who asked not to be identified denied MRCC’s claims.

“We pay a higher wage than the union does. Seventy to 80 percent of our work is prevailing wage work,” he said. “It’s not a wage issue at all, it’s a union issue. They want to bankrupt my company and steal my employees.”

Two representatives from Boji Group confirmed that the group hires Lansing Tile for various projects, but declined to comment any further on the issue.

MRCC requested payroll records from Lansing Tile to back up the claims.

“The letter said that they (MRCC) have done an investigation and have established that we are not paying standard wages. If we’d like to dispute that, send them all our payroll records of all our employees,” the Lansing Tile spokesman said.

At the bottom it said if Lansing Tile doesn’t send them within seven days, MRCC would assume they don’t pay area standard wages, the spokesman said.

MRCC instead got payroll data of Lansing Tile by asking several workers how much they were paid and their answer was “they got paid lower than the area standard wages of carpenters,” Taylor said.

The Lansing Tile spokesman said the demonstrators are part of a national pro-union campaign from Washington, targeting private companies in several states.

A recent report from www.unionstats.com says that unionized construction workers account for 14.6 percent of the construction workforce. Employees of Lansing Tile are non-union members.


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