They’ve done cabinetry and millwork for high-profile clients like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. Their handiwork graces the lobbies of hotels and the reception areas of hospitals. But after 15 years, some earn as little as $12.50 an hour.
That’s the reason a group of Carpenters from the Morris operations of Aaron Carlson Corporation stood outside company headquarters in Minneapolis Wednesday, holding a large banner that read, “Shame on Aaron Carlson.”
They want the company to voluntarily recognize Carpenters Local 1865 as their bargaining representative. The union already represents workers at the Minneapolis operation.
“We know we do good work, but we’re not compensated for what we do,” said Peter Kelly, an experienced carpenter who has worked at the Morris operation for three years. “We want our work to be reflected in our pay.”
Several workers walked off the job in Morris on April 11 in what the union is calling an unfair labor practice strike. The Carpenters Industrial Council has filed seven unfair labor practice charges against Aaron Carlson with the National Labor Relations Board.
In addition, the workers have filed a petition with the NLRB for a union election.
On its website, Aaron Carlson Corporation states it “was founded in 1891 for the purpose of creating architectural millwork, casework and fixtures for the residential and commercial markets requiring exquisite craftsmanship.” The website also touts the company’s ability to tackle difficult projects with “innovation and collaboration.”
Through their union contract, workers in Minneapolis are making $10 more per hour than their 15 counterparts in Morris, the union said.
“A $10 per hour difference equates to $20,800 less in straight time pay each and every year,” the union said in a flier distributed during Wednesday’s demonstration. “The difference is much higher when the union members’ benefits and overtime pay are calculated.”
Todd Grewe, who has worked at the Morris operation for four years, said, “I’ve asked for a raise every year on my anniversary date and I’ve never gotten a raise. So instead of doing it one at a time, we decided to get together.”
The union said it has made the workers eligible for strike benefits and is providing other support. Wednesday’s demonstration in Minneapolis lasted one day, but picketing continues daily in Morris.
“In the near future, the strikers will begin to publicize their dispute at customer locations where Aaron Carlson is doing business,” the union warned. “This is to heighten the awareness of the company’s unfair labor practices.”
Workers are organizing through unions and other organizations to improve their lives. Union representation provides a voice on the job and the opportunity to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.