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Local Union Workers Protest at Oakland Avenue Development

Operating engineering workers say construction contractor VJS hired untrained carpenters to operate a crane in lieu of their labor group, endangering the public in the process.

Picketing union operation engineer workers have taken to the sidewalks in front of the Mandel Group development site to protest not being hired for work they believe they were promised and are more qualified for. 

Pewaukee-based construction company VJS didn't hire the labor group after advising they would get the work, said Greg West, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139, Business Representative.

Instead, West said, the company is using carpenters to operate a large crane on the site of the new $34.8 million Lighthorse 4041 development, which will include 84 apartments, a 18,000 square foot Walgreens retail store and two parking structures with 200 stalls.

“This freak show could have ended in the first hour,” West said of the labor dispute.

An onsite project manager directed a reporter to contact the main VJS office for comment, but no one from the company responded to a voice mail left Friday. A message left with a receptionist at the Mandel Group also was not returned.

West said he was told going with the carpenters was more cost-effective, but he believes the contractors are not qualified to do the work.

He said he’s watched as the workers perform work contradictory to the manufacturer's recommendations and the untrained workers are putting the general public at risk.

With all the recent crane accidents, Business Representative Rick Parrent said, he feels it’s prudent to have certified crane operators, like the men in his labor group, running the equipment.

“It’s disappointing,” said West. 

Absolutelyfabulous December 29, 2012 at 02:53 AM
So, which price for labor did Mandel include in his bid to the Village w/ his request for financing?
Bob McBride December 29, 2012 at 03:26 AM
How can you be "On Strike" (per the picket signs) from a job you weren't hired to do? And if you really want to be taken seriously, leave the giant inflatable characters at home on the front lawn where they belong.
Cricket December 29, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Really disconcerting to read this. Saw the picketers and Animal Farm characters and wondered what was going on. I hope somebody from somewhere that is to do inspections is on this job site post haste. My first concern is of the crane falling and my second is that the job is not being done to industry standards for the sake of a few bucks of profit on the job. Sounds like bad business all around.
Bob McBride December 29, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Keep in mind you're hearing one side of the story here. Unions always claim that if you don't hire their members you're not getting a qualified worker. The Village should have someone on staff who can look into such issues. If you're truly concerned, it might be best to contact them on it.
Paul Seifert December 29, 2012 at 02:22 PM
As a Shorewood resident, I hear "untrained carpenters" operating a large crane and I will give the site a wide berth as I walk around with the grandkids. Forget the anti-union propaganda...no elaboration is needed. You can bet the original bid from Mandel included the higher-priced, certified, operating engineers.
Jay Sykes December 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Those blow-up varmints and sign toting protesters look familiar. I recall seeing them (the varmints that is) near one of the under construction apartment - condos on Water Street, near Pleasant.
Bob McBride December 29, 2012 at 02:43 PM
You're hearing "untrained carpenters" from the union, so obviously your preference is for union propaganda. Contact the village if you're terrified by this. Of the parties involved, they're the ones most likely to give an unbiased spin on the situation. If you think the only people qualified to operate heavy equipment are union members, you better just get used to staying home altogether. There's a lot of it being operated by non-union workers, whom the unions would no doubt consider unqualified and not properly trained as well, all over the place.
Cricket December 29, 2012 at 07:42 PM
You're right Bob, only hearing one side of the story. Something that bothered me though, this morning I was driving down Oakland around 11:30, the job site was vacant but the crane was "stopped" hanging over Oakland. Didn't seem like a good idea. I remember my dad being inpatient at Columbia St Mary's in Mequon while the construction was going on there 5 years or so ago. They had one of those hammer head tower cranes and I had a great view for about 2 weeks. During even mild snowstorms while unattended and no work being done that crane was really moving around and bouncing. Hate to think of the one on oakland coming down while it is hanging over apartments and businesses. Seems like it should have been "parked" hanging over the job site. We all remember Miller Park.
Bob McBride December 29, 2012 at 07:48 PM
It's a legitimate question. If I were you I'd call someone at Village Hall or the PD and ask about it.
Bonnie Pedraza December 29, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Unions are what made our country strong and played a big part in enlarging the middle class. The people who bash unions don't know their history, nor do they know why it was necessary to form unions in the first place.
Vicki Bennett December 31, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I think there are poor safety practices all around that work site. I hate going to Walgreen's as they often block the street and parking lot with their equipment. Trucks pull out in front of traffic without looking. To learn that there are unqualified workers on the job is no surprise. Bob McBride should not comment on what's going on in Shorewood as he doesn't live there. From his previous comments on Patch, he has made it quite clear that he doesn't care for the "liberal" Shorewoodites and, because of his profession, he is biased against the union workers.
Bob McBride December 31, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Actually, I maintain a business address there and am in the area quite frequently. And actually, I find a lot of Shorewood's "liberals" quite amusing, if not particularly consistent when it comes to walking the walk when the issues hit close to home. As for union workers, I've had plenty of experience with them on varying levels - from working along side some of them when they were picking up extra cash while on strike from their regular jobs, to watching them organize, go on strike for a couple of extra holidays a year and, ultimately, screw themselves out of jobs completely and all sorts of ridiculous nonsense in between (see above).
CowDung January 01, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Vicki: Why don't you respond to Bob's comments with actual points, rather than just calling for him to be silenced? I respect Bob's opinions and find most of his comments to be useful in contributing to a discussion. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for most of yours. Please avoid making negative comments about your fellow posters, and try to limit your comments to the topic of discussion.

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