Union Shops Need Not Apply at LiUNA

Construction union opts for union-free labor
LiUNA's D.C. headquarters / Bill McMorris

LiUNA's D.C. headquarters / Bill McMorris

BY:

The Laborers union did not place much of a priority on hiring union workers for a massive renovation on its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

The union awarded a major renovation on its $28 million downtown office building to Davis Construction, which is in the midst of a labor dispute with the local Carpenters Union. Davis spokeswoman Kate Erdy said that the agreement with the union, which represents tens of thousands of construction workers, does require the use of any union members.

“There is a union labor requirement for the project,” she said in an email.

Awarding the contract to a union shop would have boosted the fortunes of many dues paying construction workers. The construction company will provide a full renovation to the existing building and will also add a 9th floor to the building, which will give LiUNA office workers a better view of the White House two blocks away. The project is expected to last 17 months.

The union did not respond to request for comment, but has long lambasted businesses for employing non-union construction workers. The Laborers have a long history of using disruptive protest tactics to force builders and their customers to use union labor. Its website says that non-union workers are paid less than the average member salary. LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan has also argued that non-union construction companies put their employees and customers at risk.

“LiUNA signatory contractors are leaders in workplace safety … but non-union employers do not have such a fine record. Too often, they are focused on profit to the exclusion of their employees’ best interests,” he said in a Labor Day address in 2012. “Through unions, workers find the means to fight for safe worksites and build security for themselves and their families.”

Members of the Carpenters union set up a picket across the street from LiUNA headquarters to protest another Davis Construction site on Thursday. Protester Danny Nelson was in shock that a construction union that agreed with him about the issues would opt for scab labor.

“I think they’re ripping people off and aren’t going to get satisfactory work,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “I know labor unions strike on their own, but we’re both working against the same system.”

LIUNA is not the first union to partner with Davis. The company has renovated the D.C. offices of SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and even the Carpenters union that is now picketing work sites.