Picketers are marching around construction sites in Iowa’s second-largest city, which is still recovering from the devastating flood of 2008. On Tuesday, a carpenter’s union in Cedar Rapids voted down a wage offer from general contractors after the contract expired last week.
Michael Glavan, of Kleiman Construction, says flood projects brought in more contractors who don’t hire union labor and often pay less per hour.
“We go to bid a job and there’s ten people bidding it, there’s two union bidders,” Glavan says. “If our wages and package are above those folks, how are we going to be competitive and get future work for these people?” Local 308 representative Dave Hogan says the union voted down the contractor’s proposal by a four-to-one ratio.
“Nobody wins with a strike,” Hogan says. “Strike does nobody any good, but sometimes you just have to stand for what you believe in. In the work that’s gone on in Cedar Rapids since 2008, these very contractors have made hundreds of millions of dollars. Yeah, there’s going to be a slowdown for a couple months, but it’ll come back. It always does.”
Hogan says the biggest reason the proposal was rejected is that the Iowa City union negotiated higher wages last year. “Those same carpenters are getting a $1.49 raise this year,” he says. “They offered our carpenters less than a dollar and these carpenters work back and forth on Interstate 380.”
General contractors who hire union workers say offering higher wages will make it difficult to make competitive bids for projects against non-union contractors. Two carpenters’ unions in the Quad Cities are also on strike.