The state Laborers Union is picketing a municipal construction site in Wayzata.
From behind a sign reading “Shame on: City of Wayzata. Tell Thompson Construction to Stop Exploiting Workers,” Mike Connelly talks with passers by about why he and the Laborers Union will be at the intersection of Lake Street and Superior Avenue for the next two days.
Connelly, who represents the union, says Thompson Construction, the Princeton-based company hired to do concrete and sidewalk work at the new municipal liquor store site, pays their workers an unfairly low wage and is exploiting workers in the name of profit.
Picketing began early Thursday and, at around 9:30 a.m., Connelly was joined in his stand by two other supporters.
“It’s not really a union deal, it’s the fact they are not being fair to the workers,” Connelly said. “They’re not getting the wages they should be getting for this type of work in this area.”
Matt Thompson, co-owner of Thompson Construction, says Laborers Union protestors are off base with their claims of low wages and suggested there was an ulterior motive for the picketing.
“The reason they’re out there is because we’re not union,” Thompson said. “They don’t know what we pay our guys. They have no clue about pay or benefits or retirement. They’re not happy because we’re taking their work.”
Thompson went on to say that the City of Wayzata saved “quite a bit of money” by not using union workers and said he has addressed concerns raised by city about his business practices and model. Asked why Thompson Construction doesn’t employ union workers, Thompson said it was a matter of preference and that there was no law requiring his company or any other to hire unionized workers.
That doesn’t sit well with the Laborers Union and Mike Connelly, who says Thompson Construction is taking advantage of a down construction industry in order to fatten their bottom line.
“We represent people that do that work all over the state, and we would just like to see them get paid the same—close, anyway,” Connelly said.
Connelly said crews on the job site working for Thompson Construction generally leave him and his fellow picketers alone and understand the Laborers Union’s position. Wayzata police paid the picketers a visit early Thursday morning and instructed them to stay out of the way and not impede pedestrian or vehicle traffic.
Connelly said he and the Laborers Union sign would be in Wayzata through Thursday and most of Friday.
“It’s just an informational thing to let people know what’s going on,” he said.