Union protests Cherry Hill construction project

Eddie Metz (left) and Jack McLaughlin on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill, where a Pier 1 Imports store is under construction. "They're not meeting the standards of labor," Metz said.
Eddie Metz (left) and Jack McLaughlin on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill, where a Pier 1 Imports store is under construction. "They're not meeting the standards of labor," Metz said. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographers)
Posted: July 11, 2013

Protesters are back.

Members of Carpenters Local 255 stood at the curb on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill on Tuesday where a new store for Pier 1 Imports is under construction.

The problem, said three men with a sign, is that the general contractor is using workers who do not belong to a union.

"Labor Dispute," read part of a banner. In red letters, the rest of the sign shouted, "Shame on Pier 1 Imports."

Occasionally the three received a honk, or support in the form of thumbs up as they stood in the 85-degree heat on the busy byway near a Wegmans. There were also a few boos, they said.

Chrissy Madison, public relations coordinator, said Pier 1 would lease the property and the construction was being handled by the developer. "We will share this matter withour real-estate developer for future planning," she said.

Officials from a North Jersey company identified as the general contracting firm based did not respond to a request for comment.

Protesters are a common sight along the four-lane road, where labor unions often appear at construction sites with a larger-than-life inflatable rat used to symbolize what they say is the "desecration of the American way of life."

Tuesday, there was no rat. There was a small picture of one on a flier.

"They're not meeting the standards of labor," said Eddie Metz, who was picketing with Anthony White and Jack McLaughlin.

Last week, the union picketed outside the Deptford and Mount Laurel Pier 1 stores to support the use of organized labor.

In Cherry Hill, Greg Wester took an afternoon break as his construction crew dug trenches for the waterlines.

"I've got to eat, too," Wester said. "I have no problem with them coming back and working with us."

The union alleges that companies use nonunionized crews to save money by paying lower wages or making inadequate health-benefit payments and pension contributions. The flier called it an "erosion of area standards."

Carpenters working at the site, who declined to give their names, said that they understood the pickets' concerns but that they needed to work.

One carpenter said the union offered higher wages, but no job security. He says he had worked consistently for seven years without belonging to the union.


Contact Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838, bboyer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @BBBoyer.

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