Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Union protests cement contractors and unfair wages, not Satellite Diner

Posted on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Union workers protest in front of City Ramp garage on First Avenue in downtown Spokane on Wednesday morning.

Members of a carpenters union picketed outside of a downtown Spokane parking garage Wednesday, saying a contractor renovating the garage is underpaying its workers.

The union alleges that Paras Concrete Contractors, a Spokane Valley company working on the renovation of the City Ramp, does not pay a union wage to its employees.

Jimmy Matta, director of representatives and assistant to the chief executive officer of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, says Paras workers can't pay for health care and end up having to rely on public health care.

"Our picket isn't that we want them to be union; it's that we want them to pay area standards," Matta says, referring to a standard wage for certain professions, determined by unions and contractors.

Jim Paras, president of the concrete company, says the carpenters are trying to get his workers to unionize.

"Their contracts, they set one wage for all carpenters," Paras says, adding that his workers receive health benefits and get paid a range of salaries depending on their experience. "We're a merit-based company. We do not believe in that philosophy."

The union's picket — which included workers from Spokane, Boise and Seattle blowing whistles, chanting slogans and marching on the sidewalk — annoyed workers at the Satellite Diner on Sprague Avenue. Marchers at one point circled in front of the restaurant.

"We currently have an empty restaurant and want you to know that we are open and do not be intimidated by the distraction," a post on the Satellite's Facebook page read. Wendi Bryant, a supervisor of the restaurant, says the picketers were rude and blew their whistles at her customers.

"Our job is to expose these contractors, not cause businesses havoc," Matta says. "To be honest, people don't like this kind of stuff, but we have to do something."

The protesters later moved around the corner to First Avenue. Matta says they will continue to hold protests throughout the week.

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