Local laborers and union members stood outside Bob Evans in Portsmouth, and at the Bob Evans construction site on U.S. 52 in New Boston on Friday, protesting the use of nonunion workers and substandard pay wages.
“We always try to get everyone who's building a new building in our area to pay an area standard pay, which is basically our set, negotiated wage,” said Mark Johnson, Ohio & Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters business manager. “It's a pay issue. They're working for less than 50 percent of our standard pay.”
Johnson, of Chillicothe, said because the contractors, Leffler Construction of Aurora, Ind., and Phillips Construction, of Bluefield, W.Va., have hired nonunion, out-of-state workers, they aren't obliged to pay union wages.
When asked if his group would be satisfied if the contractor agreed to increase the wages for its nonunion workers, Johnson replied, “It would definitely be a turn in the right direction. We would like the local people in the community to be offered employment also.”
Johnson cited the Kroger remodeling in Portsmouth, saying the contractor was from Detroit, Mich., but hired all local companies and paid the area standard wage.
Literature distributed by the group also alleges Bob Evans' contractors aren't paying local, state or federal income taxes, claiming it increases the tax obligation to area residents.
“It's really sad to see these big companies come in and hire out-of-state, the cheapest labor they can ge,” said Ron Bennett, a 13-year carpenter from Minford. “They're making the lion's share of the profit end, and it's going out of our area,”
Johnson said he has made a plea to the contractors to sit down and discuss the issue, and said a representative from Phillips Construction said he would try to meet with him next week.
“He flat out told me he has money in his bid to pay area standard pay. He said it would probably average out because he's putting his guys up in motel rooms, and that's another cost,” Johnson said. “He's not an anti-union person at all, and he's not a bad guy. Our issue is with corporate standards.”
Johnson said his group has protested other Bob Evans sites in South Point, Jackson, and even at Bob Evans' corporate office in Columbus.
Tammy Roberts Myers, a spokewoman for Bob Evans' corporate office, said Friday that Bob Evans bids to general contractors, but after that, it's up to the selected contractor to choose their sub-contractor workers. She also said Leffler Construction had told her that no union contractors bid on the job.
“If someone says that (they weren't given a chance to bid), I would love to talk to them and make sure they do get hooked up with our construction department, because we certainly don't want to have that reputation,” Myers said.
Representatives with Leffler Construction would not comment, and Phillips Construction could not be located Friday.
In September of last year, local workers also protested the Wal-Mart construction site where the new Bob Evans is being constructed, for the contractor's use of nonunion, out-of-state and immigrant workers.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.