Carpenters protest nonunion work outside the Butte Brewing Co. site

2013-05-29T06:35:00Z 2013-06-02T13:15:04Z Carpenters protest nonunion work outside the Butte Brewing Co. siteBy RENATA BIRKENBUEL Montana Standard The Billings Gazette

BUTTE — They stood side-by-side exchanging pleasantries as the protest by about 15 Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters (PNRCC) tradesmen and family members proceeded calmly beside them.

Ron “Joel” Worth, union representative, and Gary Warner, foreman of the 12,000 square-foot project and owner of Montana Reclamation, met in the middle to discuss their differences Tuesday in front of the job site on the 400 block of East Galena.

“Our main goal is to get all carpenters a standard rate,” said Worth, who represents 120 local union members. “That’s about $22.50 an hour, plus benefits and retirement.”

Ideally, the union would like to see journeymen earn such a salary after working for lower rates as an apprentice for four years.

“We establish the journeyman rate in the area,” added Worth, who’s held the union rep title for about a year. “Because when companies go with the cheapest labor, then we can’t compete.”

Warner, who contracts with brewery owner Tony Olson of TTT Properties LLC, said he pays all three of his carpenters a minimum $15 per hour. He said they are “treated decently” and that all are Butte residents. In addition, he said, all materials were bought from Butte businesses as a show of support to buy locally.

“I’m proud to be nonunion,” said Warner, who lives in Anaconda. “I used to be union until they ripped us off.” A former member of the Operating Engineers Union and Laborers Unions, he said he joined when he was 15, but jumped ship when his benefits and retirement were adversely affected in the 1980s.

“At least I don’t have people telling me when I have to come to work today,” Warner added.

One of the nonunion carpenters, John Jaeger, said he’s been on the job for about two months.

On the flip side, Worth accused Tony Olson, brewery owner and general contractor, of “working the cheapest way instead of supporting the community.

“It hurts the area when carpenters have to supplement their wages with public assistance, medical assistance and even crime sometimes,” Worth said.

Brewery owner Tony Olson was less forthcoming when asked what he thought of the picket line in front of the huge building that Warner said is slated to open sometime this summer.

“No comment at all,” Olson said. “They do what they have to do.”

Yet it’s currently a balancing act that has both on-site leaders cognizant of maintaining civil negotiations.

“We do want the businesses to succeed in Butte,” said Worth, “but we believe they should pay carpenters area standard so they can afford to live here.”

Worth mentioned that his union carpenters ultimately should be able to afford to buy a microbrew in the new establishment once construction is complete.

“They don’t get hostile with me,” said Warner, walking over to Worth. “They’re all good people. I don’t mind shaking their hand.”

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. Pipeguy
    Report Abuse
    Pipeguy - May 30, 2013 7:26 am
    Non union dues are over 10 dollars per hour in this one. That's the difference in union vs. non union rates. Do you think the owner will charge less for the brew because he absconded with the workers pay? Low wages are not good for anybody but the greedy.
  2. native mt
    Report Abuse
    native mt - May 30, 2013 6:06 am
    I was raised in a "union" home. I was a member of the UFCW for 25 years. They protect the workers with no work ethic. Had crappy insurance and spineless co-workers when it came to contracts. My son worked a job for 5 years and made more than I did at 20 years. WASTE of time and money. Happy I walked.
  3. Chinesetiger
    Report Abuse
    Chinesetiger - May 29, 2013 10:29 pm
    You are all correct. We don't need any unions anymore. Union membership has gone down from 29% to 8% since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 83. We have an unemployment rate of 8% and the federal reserve prints money and GM is building a Cadillac plant in China for $1.6 BN dollars as is COORS Beer building in China. Yes, lots of ILLEGAL Mexicans in Denver willing to work in Butte for $10 an hour with no benefits so Butte schools better hire Spanish translators. 11 to 30 million illegals in the US depending on who is doing the counting while lazy Americans receive unemployment for 104 weeks? The proposed amnesty in Congres will raise the number of LEGAL visas for computer programmers etc from 75,000 to 120,000. How many US college graduates can't find a job and are how much in debt? Hey it is all good! right? This is your global econoimy. BTW it seems to me that pickup is $50,000 whether it is union GM or from Japan or Korea. Yes, blame the unions! Stocks are up!LOL
  4. StpdPple
    Report Abuse
    StpdPple - May 29, 2013 8:59 pm
    That was probably before a 100 child labor laws and hundreds of other right to work laws have been passed. The late 70's were 40 years ago before this great state started being managed by the over privileged who moved here ahead of the housing boom in western MT. Their view was ruined by subdivisions and it wasn't so lonely and quiet out here in the west so they ran for office and started passing laws like they had back home in Washington, California.
    The owner should have the freedom to hire which ever contractor he wants. Go to CO and see if the mexican builders are doing it cheaper than the licensed or non union ones? Unions have ruined more than they have helped. Why do you think a car/pickup cost $50K? For the most part they have went too far and taught their members to be lazy and get rewarded for it.
    Someday the people in this country are going to go hungry. Hope I live to see it.
  5. CW32
    Report Abuse
    CW32 - May 29, 2013 12:14 pm
    Typical union people. Would rather sit and complain about not working, instead of just working. We dont need unions anymore. Full of a bunch of entitled complainers. Get to work
  6. Leonard Dolan
    Report Abuse
    Leonard Dolan - May 29, 2013 7:58 am
    Buying lumber for the project locally is a good thing and does support local business. What I dont understand is that carpenters supplement their income with public assistance. Is it supplemented when working or not working? If it is supplemented while working, I was unaware someone can do that. In the past, if you worked, you couldnt draw public assistance. Kind of curious, what is the average pay for different types of jobs performed in that area? I get $17.50 per hour for hauling HAZMAT.
  7. Zaffron
    Report Abuse
    Zaffron - May 29, 2013 7:30 am
    "A former member of the Operating Engineers Union and Laborers Unions, he said he joined when he was 15," -- said Warner, who lives in Anaconda.

    Ah-h-h, the ambiguities of the non-union . ..
    Joined what? At 15???? I find this quite dubious.

    Specifics please.

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