March 06, 2013 - In the midst of the falling snow on Feb. 22, you may have seen picket signs held high on the corner of Sashabaw and Waldon Roads. What was the demonstration's target?
Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 and Local 7 picket a new restaurant. Photos by Mary Keck (click for larger version)
It was Sherman Heating and Cooling for employing nonunion workers to renovate a 10,656 square foot building where Sagano's Japanese Steakhouse will open in May.
The site at 6545 Sashabaw next to The Salvation Army was formerly home to a CVS. The cost to turn the pharmacy into a restaurant is estimated to be $880,000, and Sagano's received a building permit in January allowing interior renovations to begin.
Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 and Local 7 gathered in front of the future Sagano's location holding signs printed with phrases such as "honk for local jobs" and "Sherman Heating and Cooling does not have a contract with Sheet Metal Workers Local 7." They passed out flyers discouraging people from patronizing Sagano's when it opens. The picketers reported hearing supportive honks and seeing a few signals from drivers that were not supportive of their protest.
"We were picketing for area standards. They aren't paying the wages that are established in our area," said Chuck Taormina marketing representative of Local 80 out of Southfield.
The wages the union expects Sherman Heating and Cooling to pay are an estimated $60 per hour, which includes healthcare, annuity, and pension, Taormina explained.
In addition, Taormina noted the business is from Swartz Creek. "We want area jobs for area people," he said.
Doug Sherman owner of Sherman Heating and Cooling is familiar with the Sheet Metal Workers Local 7 and has noticed them picketing at other projects where he's worked.
"I used to belong to that union for 22 years, and they didn't really care about me after I was laid off," Sherman said. "We all have to make our mortgage payments and put food on our tables, and they weren't there to help."
After the company he worked for downgraded and Sherman lost his job, he turned to the union. "I was on the books for two years and never heard from them," he said. When Local 7 didn't help him find employment, "I started my own business," Sherman stated.
While Sherman owns a non-union business, he has used materials from companies employing union labor. "All the sheet metal and ductwork we're buying for the job is from union shops," he pointed out.
According to Sherman, the three employees working on the ductwork and adding exhaust fans to the future Sagano's don't want to be a part of a union.
"All these union business agents have approached all my employees and asked them to come work for a union, and they've all declined and turned them down," Sherman said.
"Well, most owners say that," Taormina countered. "Why would he want to give them an increase in pay, healthcare, and pension when he can cheat?"
Despite the unemployed picketers outside, the nonunion work of Sherman Heating and Cooling continues, but don't be surprised if you drive passed union demonstrators at the corner of Sashabaw and Waldon before the renovations are complete.
"We may be back in the future," said Taormina.
Clarkston News reporter