Unions Have Hired the Homeless to Picket for Years

By July 25, 2007Labor Unions

A little journalistic autopsy on the The Washington Post story, “Outsourcing the Picket Line — Carpenters Union Hires Homeless to Stage Protests.” The story struck a chord in the blogosphere, and local TV station, WRC-Channel 4, did a report on the picketing last night. (Script here and video here.)

Bret Jacobson at Laborpains.org reminds us now that the local ABC affiliate, Channel 7, did essentially the same story back in August 2006. (Video here.) And as we noted yesterday, Street Sense, the self-help homeless tabloid, reported the story in August 2005.

And it’s been going on all over the country. For years.

  • Miami, Fla., October 2004: “When it comes to picketing, the Carpenters’ Union has discovered it’s smart to outsource. …That’s part of the strategy behind a flurry of protests outside a few Brickell Avenue towers in recent months. But complaints have filtered to Miami police regarding abusive language and use of the homeless to hold signs. “Maybe some are homeless, but not the majority,” Kuzmik said.
  • Indianapolis, Ind., May 2005: “The labor group hires demonstrators–including many homeless and unemployed people who have little or no connection to the construction trades–to picket various projects, carrying giant fake rats on sticks or even wearing rat costumes.”
  • Columbus, Ohio, August 2006: “Ohio and Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters is upset that some contractors and property-management companies don’t pay carpenters the $22.50-an-hour standard wage and, perhaps, don’t pay for health insurance or pensions. So the union is picketing these companies. Well, sort of. The union itself is not doing the protesting. Rather, it has hired more than 160 nonunion people — the jobless and the homeless — to do its picketing.”
  • Louisville, January 2005.
  • Denver, January 2006.
  • Not the greatest hypocrisy in the world, but amusing enough to generate news coverage and jibes. Unions are paying non-union workers — easily exploited homeless people — low wages to picket on behalf of union membership. Oh, how their principles stretch.

    The federal minimum wage went up yesterday. Did the carpenters give their homeless picketers a raise?

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