Since a local general contractor refused to hire a union company to install drywall at the future San Luis Obispo home of Meathead Movers, the tactics and aggressive antics of the rejected bidder’s union have reached a level that caused workers at the job site to call the police.
In October, two of the construction workers asked representatives of the Union Brotherhood of Contactors (UBC) Local 150 to leave their property because of alleged bullying. When their refusal to leave led to a heated argument that included foul language, a worker called the San Luis Obispo Police Department for assistance.
Hired by a group of businessmen that include Aaron and Evan Steed, the owners of Meathead Movers, the general contractor rejected the bid by an out-of-area union sub-contractor. That bid was almost double the amount of bids submitted by other contractors.
And even though Meathead Movers is a tenant and not an owner of Central Coast Mini Storage, where the disputes have taken place, the picketers are handing out flyers that say, “Shame on Meathead Movers for desecration of the American way of life.”
“The idea is to do enough harm to the business to make the business owner try to persuade the land owner to hire their workers,” Meathead Mover co-owner Evan Steed said. “People think our employees are picketing. This is misleading and extortion.”
Added Aaron Steed, “If we had to build this project at 43 percent more, this project would not be happening. This Southern California union is trying to extort Meathead Movers.”
Meathead Movers employs more than 160 people and is expecting to hire more employees after work on the new offices and storage area is completed (eight months).
“We take a lot of pride in that (putting people to work),” Aaron Steed said. “We are taking a risk trying to grow during a bad time.”
According to the union’s flyer, which displays a large rat gnawing on the American flag, Rarig Construction is a rat who does not pay its workers’ health care or pension benefits. Although the marchers appear to be unemployed union laborers, those holding signs as they march in front of the future home of Meathead Movers are paid picketers.
While Rarig Construction provides their employees with health benefits and a 401 K retirement plan, the union pays their picketers an hourly wage but does not offer them any health care or retirement benefits.
Newspaper articles have reported that UBC generally pays picketers $8 per hour. Union representatives said they hire non-union workers to picket, though they would not divulge what they pay them.
The Camarillo-based Local 150 hires the homeless, the unemployed and the retired to promote its message. Three picketers walk the line from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday on the corner of Higuera Street and Hind Lane in San Luis Obispo.
“They go down to the Salvation Army and pick up people,” said Steve Weiner, secretary-treasurer of the Tri-County Building and Trade Council, AFL-CIO. “We don’t approve because it affects the other business trades and makes (legitimate union workers) look bad.”
Local 150 is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, Weiner said.