Rent a Picket Line: The Unions in Downtown D.C.

By July 24, 2007Labor Unions

A common feature of noontime life in downtown D.C. is a shouting, shambling crowd of protesters, carrying signs and walking a circle on the sidewalk. They often have a prop — a giant, inflated rat. One understands by the signs the activity to be a carpenters union protesting non-union work at the office building of the day. OK. Fine. Exercise of constitutional rights.

On page one today the Washington Post reports that the picketers are in fact homeless people paid $8 an hour to walk the line.

Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members.

They’re hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs…..[snip]

Carpenters locals across the country are outsourcing their picket lines, hiring the homeless, students, retirees and day laborers to get their message across. Larry Hujo, a spokesman for the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, calls it a “shift in the paradigm” of picketing.

This is news to the Post? Well, of course the picketers are homeless people. All you have to do is look at the crowd, the erratic behavior, and their gatherings stacked nearby. What the heck, good for them, making a buck a legitimate way.

Although there some disagreement with the practice among union folk.

“If I was a member of the general public, and I asked someone picketing why they were there, and they said they don’t work for the union and they were just hired to stand there, that wouldn’t create a very positive impression on me, nor would it create a very sympathetic position,” said Wayne Ranick, spokesman for the United Steelworkers of America.

Here’s another thought. Let’s say you’re a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, a union member and proud of it. You meet someone, identify yourself.

“Oh, yeah. I saw you guys picketing down on F Street the other day. Kinda rough, aren’t you?”

Really, how do you feel having your public image being that of a bunch of shouting bums?

Join the discussion One Comment

  • The end of your blog implies that one can actually tell the difference between a union carpenter and a bum…

    Absent a hammer in hand, it is all too often it is too difficult to differentiate between the two.

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