DeVos Place Not Protest Target

January 8, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Protesters outside the new $220 million convention center for the past few days have not stopped work on DeVos Hall.

In fact, their actions really haven’t had much to do with the construction project, other than Target Construction Inc. works on it.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 7 has been protesting at the DeVos Place site since Monday because Target Construction of Rockford is a non-union vendor. The company has been chosen for a few high-profile projects such as the convention center and a new printing plant in Walker, and the union is protesting the lower wages Target pays its workers.

“Our wage package has gotten eroded to the point where we’re protesting those sub-standard wages that are offered on the other side. We’ve worked hard to get our package to where it is today, and it’s not good for the community to go backwards on wages,” said Doug Adams, business representative for the union.

“What we’re trying to maintain is a decent wage package for everyone working in the industry,” he added.

Adams also said that the union offers health benefits and pensions for retired members, but it has gotten more difficult to put that type of package together here in recent years.

“Rather than not do anything about that, we’re protesting,” said Adams. “This is not a picket, it’s a protest.”

Erhardt-Hunt Project Manager Bill Sewell told the Business Journal that the union’s presence on the site has not interfered with any work on the project.

“None whatsoever. There is a minor inconvenience for Target,” he said.

Sewell said that an entrance off Michigan Street has been designated for Target workers, meaning the union’s protests have to be restricted to that area.

“The rest of the contractors aren’t faced with the decision of whether or not they want to cross a picket line,” he explained. “But the picket affects no contractor other than Target.

“It really has nothing to do with the actual work or contracting of DeVos Place. It’s purely that Target is here, and Target is their target,” added Sewell.

Target Construction is a sheet-metal fabricator that Local 7 has tried to get into its fold for a while. The protest started Monday morning.

DeVos Place could ill afford a work stoppage for any length of time, as the timetable for completing the exhibit space has been accelerated by five weeks so the building can host three trade shows, with the largest and the first set for late November.

Initially the exhibit space was to have been finished in January 2004. But now a post-Thanksgiving grand opening is being planned for the building. Speeding up the schedule has added another $275,000 to the construction cost, a figure that includes overtime pay for construction workers.           

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