Bedford Park company accused of union busting

Ironworkers allege owner claimed location was closing and fired staff but kept it open with nonunion employees.

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John Kot, owner of All Steel Iron Works in Bedford Park, argues with protesters Tuesday who accused him of unjustly laying off workers to bust their union.

John Kot, owner of All Steel Iron Works in Bedford Park, argues with protesters Tuesday who accused him of unjustly laying off workers to bust their union.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Members and supporters of Ironworkers Shop Local 853 staged a small protest Tuesday outside a Bedford Park company, complaining its owner failed to honor a contract he agreed to in principle and then fired workers in a ruse to bust the union.

They were confronted by the owner, John Kot of All Steel Iron Works, who would not address the substance of their complaint but accused the union of being interested in dues and of trying to control his company. “You guys are imposing your will on me,” Kot said angrily, calling one protester a socialist.

Union leaders said Kot agreed to tentative terms of a three-year contract then would not sign the final version. Instead, he laid off members of the ironworkers union in January, saying he was closing the plant. Remzi Jaos, business representative for Local 853, said the Bedford Park site has remained open with nonunion hires and is shipping products to construction sites throughout the region.

“I have never seen an employer so disrespectful toward his workers,” said Jaos, who has 30 years of experience in labor negotiations. “This guy is completely off the rails.” He said the dispute involves 10 workers, who voted to unionize in 2019.

Jaos said the union has filed grievances with the National Labor Relations Board, including a charge of failure to bargain in good faith, but that the cases have yet to be heard by the federal agency. “He’s basically trying to bust the union,” Jaos said.

Reached by the Sun-Times before the union rally, Kot declined to comment.

He told the protesters the union contract provided workers lower compensation than he was paying. Jaos said that wasn’t the case and that the deal provided workers health insurance and pension benefits for the first time.

The Rev. C.J. Hawking, executive director of the pro-labor group Arise Chicago, called Kot’s actions “completely immoral and despicable.” Mike Barkowski, a former worker at All Steel who said he was laid off after five years, commented, “What he’s doing right now is not right.”

During an angry exchange about his alleged failure to live up to a contract, Kot told a protester, “You’re gonna have to take that up with your state representative.’’ Arise Chicago streamed the encounter on Facebook.

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Mike Barkowski talks about being laid off from All Steel Iron Works in Bedford Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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