PITTSTON – Flanked by a 10-foot inflatable rat, a dozen International Union of Painters and Allied Trades members walked a picket line Friday protesting the use of non-union workers for construction of a building on Main Street that will house a credit union.
"They're rats," said Bob Griffiths, business representative for District Council 21. "We brought a rat to symbolize that."
And to further protest the non-union work, Griffiths said he expects the 262 members of District Council 21 to cancel their accounts with the future tenant – UFCW Credit Union – and move them to another credit union that supports unions.
John Hayduk, chief executive officer for UFCW Credit Union, did not return messages left at his office requesting comment. The credit union also has offices in Kingston, Wyoming and Hanover Township.
Griffiths said the building is being built by SamCar Group, Ltd., located across the street from the work site.
Sam Marranca, owner of the company, was unfazed by the picketers and the big rat.
"That doesn't bother me at all," he said. "People locally knew the building was going to be built, but no union contractors approached us about the job. We don't discriminate. We've used union contractors before on other projects."
Griffiths said the Pittston project is typical of others that don't use union workers. He said a developer buys land and builds the building and then leases the space.
"In this case, like others, the credit union says it's not their fault that union workers weren't used," Griffiths said. "We are recommending our members cancel their accounts with UFCW and open accounts with a credit union that supports labor unions."
Griffths said his union couldn't picket the site until the dry wall and painting began. He said by law, unions cannot picket a construction site until the specific work that its members do is being performed by non-union workers.
Across the street from the picketers and the 10-foot rat, Gene Stilp parked his 40-foot pink bus. Stilp, the Democratic candidate in the 11th Congressional District, was in Pittston for an event and he stopped by the picket line to offer support for the union members.
Pittston is in the 17th Congressional District, but Stilp said he saw the picket line and wanted to offer support.
"I have the support of many unions throughout my district," Stilp said. "I wanted to stand with my union brothers and sisters because I appreciate the hard work they do."