I would love to hear a union leader (or supporter) explain this in a way that didn't involve downward-sloping demand curves for labor.
Billy Raye, a 51-year-old unemployed bike courier, is looking for work.
Fortunately for him, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters is seeking paid demonstrators to march and chant in its current picket line outside the McPherson Building, an office complex here where the council says work is being done with nonunion labor.
"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.
So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage--$8.25 an hour--to walk picket lines. Mr. Raye says he's grateful for the work, even though he's not sure why he's doing it. "I could care less," he says. "I am being paid to march around and sound off."
For four hours at the recent Mid-Atlantic carpenters' union protest in D.C., about 50 picketers-for-hire--some smoking cigarettes, reading the paper, or on their phones; a few leaning on canes--walked in a circle outside the McPherson Building. The place is home to a Starbucks, a spa and offices. "Some days, the beat is very good," said James Harff, chief executive officer of Global Communicators LLC, a public-relations concern, tapping one foot in his second floor office. Other days, he can hardly hear himself think.
"Low Pay! Go away!" and "That Rat Gotta Go!" the union stand-ins chanted as other workers banged cow-bells and beat on a trio of empty plastic buckets. Eric Williams, a 70-year-old retiree who said he needs extra cash to buy groceries, wore a sign saying that Can-Am Contractors, a nonunion Maryland drywall and ceiling concern, "does not pay area standard wages & benefits."
The target of the campaign is the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, which is opening new classrooms on the second floor of the McPherson Building, and is having renovations done, including dry-walling by Can-Am.
"It is bizarre," says Lynne Baker, a school spokeswoman, about the union's hiring of nonunion picketers.
Inside, Juan Flores, Can-Am's foreman, said his nonunionized workers are paid fairly. Of the protesters, he said, "I don't blame them--they need the money, but they look like they are drunk or something."
The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.
I would then immediately thereafter like to hear the same person's opinions on the minimum wage.
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