MIRANDA MARITATO | STAFF REPORTER
“Shame. Shame. Shame. Butler University,” reads the large banner held by protesters outside of the construction site for the new parking garage. The protesters are from Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, which supports local carpenters and promotes central Indiana’s area standards, wages and fringe benefits for carpenters.
The protesters are concerned that Butler chose a construction company that does not pay their carpenters central Indiana’s area standards wages and fringe benefits.
“The Banner represents members, families and friends of the Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, many of whom are your relatives, friends or neighbors, living and working in the central Indiana area,” according to a flyer from Support Local Carpenters. “The wages, pensions and health insurance that we earn through our work is spent in the community where we live.”
Union workers promote the quality and training of their members; however, non-union workers are equally trained but offer more competitive pricing.
Executive Director of Facilities Rich Michal works with Butler University in selecting vendors to complete construction projects on campus.
“There are union contractors on this project,” Michal said. “There will be union workers on the housing project and some open shop contractors as well. It will be a mixed bag.”
“We go through a process for the major projects where we put out requests for qualifications. So on the (parking) garage we did that and we went through a pretty lengthy process,” Michal said. “We selected Keystone Construction (Corporation) based on their design proposal and qualifications.”
Keystone Construction has won several awards recognizing its corporation’s excellence, including Best Places to Work in Indiana and Healthiest Employers, according to its website.
In the past, Butler hired architects separately from the construction companies on projects. With the new parking garage structure, the architect is an employee of Keystone Construction.
“We felt comfortable doing that because they came up with the conceptual design,” Michal said. “And that is a big reason why we chose them.”
Michal said Butler makes efforts to use local contractors and designers as much as possible. “We believe in using local vendors,” he said.
But there are other concerns as well.
“We’re also concerned about meeting minority and women in business criteria,” he said. “We aren’t a public institution, so we don’t have those set standards we have to meet, but we try to as much as possible. We are more concerned about those areas than whether it is union or non-union.”
But the protesters are still concerned with central Indiana’s area standards.
Local area standards include health insurance and pension or equivalent compensations, payment of overtime in a day, premium time for holiday and weekend work, and company-provided power tools and safety equipment.
“In our opinion, Butler University’s failure to have area-standards compliant contractor working on their campus will result in our community’s loss of consumer dollars, since workers will have fewer dollars to spend in our community’s retail stores, entertainment centers, housing market and for services provided by our local professionals,” according to the flyer.
The hallmark of the regional council is three-fold: training, professionalism and partnerships for economic development, according to the Support Local Carpenters’ website.
The training prong details that well-trained professionals are more cost effective, deliver the best results and help bring about the safest workplace.
By professionalism, Support Local Carpenters promotes taking pride in one’s work and, when combined with the professional security a union provides, breeds loyalty to one’s employer.
Including partnership suggests that Support Local Carpenters teach members to view themselves as partners in a project’s success; by doing so, everyone succeeds.
“Butler University’s decision has also shown little regard for the use of local area standards compliant contractors and—whether intentional or not—is not a positive contribution to our community’s economic welfare. Thus, the banner in front of this project,” according to the flyer.
Michal said Butler is neutral on the situation.
“According to the carpenters union, their complaint is that some union workers work for the concrete company, so they are angry at those union workers and carpenters for doing that,” Michal said. “We don’t necessarily have a dog in that fight.”