Union members protest at future auto parts storeMembers of area unions stood outside of the building site of the future O’Reilly Auto Parts store intermittently throughout the past week, protesting the use of non-local, non-union labor for the project.
By: Sonja Peterson, Lake County News Chronicle
Members of area unions stood outside of the building site of the future O’Reilly Auto Parts store intermittently throughout the past week, protesting the use of non-local, non-union labor for the project.
Norm Voorhees of Ironworkers Local 512 said last Friday that they wanted to inform Two Harbors residents that O’Reilly’s has chosen to use non-union labor from out-of-state. He and other protesters have been displaying a banner that reads “Shame on: O’Reilly Auto Parts. Labor Dispute: No Local Labor.”
O’Reilly Auto Parts hired G.M. Northrup Corp., based in Prior Lake, Minn., as the general contractor. Construction began last fall but was delayed when union members associated with the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council protested the use of a Hudson, Wis.-based concrete company. Concrete suppliers from Duluth refused to cross the picket line and construction came to a stand-still.
G.M. Northrup then subcontracted the work out to a local concrete company, Home Menders Inc., instead, but the project was delayed about three weeks. Winter conditions meant that work had to be put off until this spring and summer.
Home Mender’s Inc. has completed its part of the project. Now union members are protesting G.M. Northrup’s choice to use a non-union, out-of-state contractor for the structural steel work.
G.M. Northrup declined to comment on the project when contacted on Monday, though workers on site confirmed that they were from a company based in Alabama.
Mark Merz, director of external reporting and investor relations for O’Reilly Auto Parts, said that the company does not have a policy on hiring local or union labor for building its stores and it doesn’t have control over subcontracting.
Unlike last year’s protest, this one is not slowing down work. The union members said they just wanted to inform people that O’Reilly Auto Parts had used non-local, non-union labor for some of the construction.
“If they want the local community to support them, they should support their local community,” said another protester, Roger Johnson, a member of the Duluth area electrician’s union IBEW Local #242.
Voorhees also expressed concern that O’Reilly Auto Parts, a national chain, would put locally owned auto parts stores in Two Harbors out of business.
“We’re hoping the community will choose to support local business instead,” Voorhees said.
O’Reilly Auto Parts is based in Springfield, Mo., and has more than 3,700 locations nationwide. According to Merz, most new O’Reilly Auto Parts stores employ eight people and the store is projected to open in September.