- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- BANNER YEAR: Members of the Carpenters Local 1800, an Arroyo Grande-based union, have been bannering Family Care Network, Inc., a local family services nonprofit, because subcontractors working on the nonprofit’s new building allegedly don’t meet “area labor standards for all their carpenter craft workers.”
With their trademark “SHAME” banners, disdain for independent contractors, and seemingly endless vitriol, carpenters union members have publicly popped up again in San Luis Obispo County—and they’ve picked another unlikely target.
This time, Family Care Network, Inc.—a SLO-based child, youth, and family services organization—is in the crosshairs of the Carpenters Local 1800, an Arroyo Grande-based branch of the national United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Local 1800 picketers, planted roughly 100 feet from the Family Care Network building entrance on South Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, refused to give their names to New Times, and instead directed a reporter to a flyer and their banner. They did say they are “proud union members” and “just doing [their] jobs”—but said explaining the picketing was above their pay grade.
The flyer, at least, accuses Family Care Network of “desecration of the American way of life,” something it’s accomplished by hiring a “rat,” or non-union contractor who allegedly “does not pay all of its employees area standard wages.”
According to Family Care Network CEO Jim Roberts, the union has it all wrong.
“I feel totally blindsided,” Roberts told New Times. “Not only are they broadcasting a false message, but they didn’t even have the decency to talk with us.”
Roberts said the nonprofit—which works with thousands of children and families every year to provide foster care, mental health support mentoring, and housing services—bought a property near the SLO County Regional Airport in January 2012 and has been constructing a new building there for nearly a year and a half.
“For the building, we’ve contracted with Specialty Construction, and who they hire and what they do is beyond our scope,” Roberts said. “They have the highest level of integrity and excellence, they’re great builders, and that’s why we went with them.”
Roberts said he spoke with staffers at Specialty Construction, who assured him they pay good wages and benefits. He said the bannering, which has been going on only for the past few weeks, has baffled all targeted parties.
The subcontractor that the Local 1800 has taken issue with is Drywall Dynamics, a Paso Robles company hired by Specialty Construction to work on the building. Roberts said he doesn’t have any problems with the subcontractor, and he believes Specialty Construction doesn’t either.
Though the flyer exhorts readers to call Roberts and urge him to “change this situation,” Roberts said he has yet to receive a single call.
“It’s awkward for us now, because our staffers are being approached by people asking ‘are you having employee issues?’” Roberts said. “It’s making it look like there’s some labor dispute, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Roberts said the new building should be finished in roughly a month, and he hopes the “inappropriate negative shadow” cast by the union members won’t unduly affect the nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.
Numerous calls to Specialty Construction, Drywall Dynamics, and the Local 1800 weren’t returned as of press time.