If you have driven by Price Chopper’s corporate headquarters recently, at the corner of Nott Street and Maxon Road in Schenectady, you may have noticed a few demonstrators standing out front holding a banner saying, “Shame on Price Chopper,” with the words “labor dispute” in smaller print.
And maybe you wondered what it was all about. Well, it’s pretty obscure.
It has to do with Price Chopper’s recent construction of a new store in Binghamton, for which it engaged a general contractor by the name of Ron Wright Inc., based in Hamilton. Ron Wright accepted bids for various parts of the job, per standard practice, and the carpenters’ union lost out on its bid for the carpentry work. That sub-contract went to someone else, presumably non-union, though I was not able to learn the details. That’s all it is.
And for that, the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters has been blaring “Shame on Price Chopper” these past several months and distributing leaflets bearing a picture of a rat gnawing at an American flag, standard union iconography, along with the full version of their slogan, “Shame on Price Chopper for Desecration of the American Way of Life.”
Yes, desecration of the American way of life! Claiming that Ron Wright, “does not meet labor standards, including providing or fully paying for family healthcare and pension for all its carpenter craft employees.”
Price Chopper has hung a banner of its own on a fence behind the demonstrators, saying, “Their Dispute Is Not With Us,” but good luck with that.
The funny thing is that the demonstrators themselves, the three people holding the banner, are not members of the carpenters’ union or any other union but are simply pick-up people receiving no benefits. I talked to them the other day. They wouldn’t tell me how much they’re getting paid, but it can’t be much, to just stand there for six hours at a stretch and hold a lousy banner, but they did confirm they get no health insurance or pension. Of course not. Not for menial day labor like that.
Nor are they from Schenectady. Two of them told me they were from Albany, the other one would only say he was from “out of the area.”
The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 291, at 1248 Central Ave., did not get back to me, which I regret. I wanted to ask them if they are not desecrating the American Way of Life by hiring cheap non-union labor and sending them out with no benefits to do their dirty work for them.
The union has money, of course, for staff and office. If some of its members are out of work, why not employ them directly to hold that banner? (Possible answer: Because it would be too expensive. Carpenters get $27.35 an hour plus benefits.)
Another little matter: The three people who were manning the banner when I stopped by were all black, two of them holding it, one sitting in a folding chair and superintending, so it would be easy for a passerby to get the impression there was some kind of racial discrimination being alleged. It’s probably just happenstance — you want cheap hourly or daily labor, it’s easier to get black people — but that’s how it looks.
There are all kinds of ways to desecrate the American way of life.