Friday, February 24, 2006

Unions Pay Homeless People to Man Picket Lines; Union Members All Have Good Jobs, Too Busy to Picket

Several weeks ago, national media outlets reported of a growing phenomenon of labor unions that, thanks to their success in providing their members steady, good-paying jobs, there are few members available to man picket lines around various construction jobs. To solve this problem, unions began hiring homeless people to man the picket lines.

This practice has arrived in West Virginia courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters and their desire to unionize the construction of a new office for a Charleston doctor. The source of this news is no less than the Charleston Gazette, which revealed this story today only because they ran a picture of the pickets yesterday, identifying them erroneously as union members.

The Gazette reports that the Carpenters union pays each homeless picket $8 per hour, but without health insurance or other benefits unions believe should be provided by every employer to its employees. The Gazette reported:

“We’re helping them get on their feet,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense for us to get people off the jobs who are already working when we can help the community.”

The men signed contracts prohibiting them from speaking with the press, Harmon said.

Unlike carpenters and other craftsman, there are no local standards for banner holders, said Scott Brewer, service representative for the council’s Charleston local.

“[Eight dollars an hour] is well above minimum wage. It’s not a hard job. I believe we’re setting a good standard for banner holders,” said Brewer, who did not hire the men and did not know where they came from. “I would guess they are making more money than they have been.”

So, the Carpenters union protests the use of a non-union construction company to build a new doctor's office, yet they seem to have found such an abundance of work for their working members that they only people they could find to man picket lines are homeless people. Conveniently enough, even at just $8 per hour without benefits, these workers have been forced to sign confidentiality agreements.