Union carpenters, upset about a non-union shop being hired to work on the expansion of Halas Hall, have been protesting outside the Chicago Bears’ headquarters for more than two weeks.
Mortenson Company, lead contractor on the expansion, hired Ameriscan Design, a non-union shop, to do off-site millwork on the project — putting Bears fans who belong to Carpenters Local 1027 in an uncomfortable position.
It’s also put some of them on protest duty; they’ve been out there since Aug. 20.
“I’m a Bears fan. I hate standing out there. I do,” said Rusty Broadbent, business manager for Local 1027. “But, I mean, it’s a lot of hours, it’s a lot of man-hours. If it were a $100,000 job it might be a different story, but it’s a multi-million dollar job that I just can’t turn my back on and walk away from.”
Three or four Local 1027 members have Bears season tickets, according to Broadbent.
One of them is Chris Kasmer, a business representative at Local 1027 and union carpenter for 20 years. It’s his union wages that allow him to afford season tickets, Kasmer said, and he’s had them for more than 10 years. But should the situation continue, Kasmer said, he might consider not renewing after this season.
“It hasn’t affected [my relationship with the the team], but it definitely could,” Kasmer said.
Bears’ spokesman Brandon Faber said all employees on the Halas Hall job site are union, and Broadbent and Mortenson agree on that point. The non-union work would be performed off-site.
The Bears did not comment further about the protests. Ameriscan Design did not return an email and phone calls requesting comment.
“We understand concerns may exist between a supplier and a union; however, there is currently no labor dispute between Mortenson and any union,” Mortenson senior vice-president Greg Warner wrote in a statement.
“Mortenson is responsible for selecting this supplier, not the Chicago Bears. We have used this supplier in the past and are currently using this supplier in other projects in the Chicagoland area, without any issues.”
Opting for a union shop would mean higher wages for the workers on the job, Broadbent said. And it would be a good chance to showcase the quality of union work, he said.
Two to four members have been stationed at roads leading into the facility every day since Aug. 20, with the exception of Labor Day, Broadbent said, and they plan to keep doing that, for now.
DISCLOSURE: Some unions and labor organizations have ownership stakes in Sun-Times Media, including the Labor/Management Union Carpentry Cooperation Promotion Fund.