PLYMOUTH — Twin Cities construction workers picketed outside Wayzata Central Middle School early last week, starting Tuesday, July 23.
According to two of the protesters, Terry Nelson and Sterling Sanders, the group is doing an informational picket to inform people about the low bid the contractor the school district hired took for its remodeling project.
Nelson was there to picket the painting subcontractor, Admiral Coatings Inc., and Sanders was there to picket the demolition and concrete subcontractor, Demo Unlimited. They both say workers are being underpaid because of the bid taken by the contractor which, according to Nelson, was around $170,000 less than the next lowest bidder.
According to Nelson, this means those working on the job will be paid below the area standard.
“It’s important to the laborers to make sure that the companies and the contractors pay their employees standard area wages and benefits,” Sanders said.
Demo Unlimited is a non-union construction company out of North St. Paul. Demo Unlimited President Erik Peterson said the protest is primarily a union versus non-union dispute.
Peterson received an email from the Construction and General Laborers’ Union early Tuesday morning regarding standard wages in the area. Peterson says the union never reached out to him or his company about his wages or benefits.
The email from the Laborers Local 563 says, “We will continue to picket the job sites where your employees are working until such time as you present evidence, to our satisfaction, that you are paying the wages and fringe benefits set forth above.”
According to the email, the area standards are a $34.11 hourly wage, $9.17 pension, $7.85 health and welfare, $2.30 vacation and $0.32 training.
"The district is aware of the dispute and we are working diligently with our construction partners to get contractors back on the site to continue their work tomorrow," Director of Communications and Community Engagement for Wayzata Public Schools Amy Parnell told Lakeshore Weekly News on July 24.
Nelson contacted State Rep. Ginny Klevorn, DFL-Plymouth, about the union’s picket plans. Klevorn joined picketers outside the middle school the morning of Wednesday, July 24.
“I am a strong believer that people who are paid for the days work, should be paid for the day’s work and all their benefits,” Klevorn told the paper. “I want to make sure if we are using public dollars for public work then the people who are doing that work should be paid for that work.”
The construction work being done on the middle school includes remodeling its flexible classrooms, science labs, the media center, the performing arts spaces and auditorium. Crews will install new floors and ceilings, and expand the cafeteria, kitchen and food service area, according to a May 2019 news release from Kraus-Anderson, which is the main contractor on the project.
Other improvements include a new turf field and reconfiguration of the bus loop and sidewalks.
Lakeshore Weekly News reached out to Kraus-Anderson, which deferred comment to Wayzata Public Schools.