CLARK, NJ – While driving by the Clark Commons Construction site Tuesday, residents might have noticed workers picketing at either entrance depending on the time of day. A closer look would have revealed a virtual ghost town inside the site as well.
Work on the construction site slowed to a trickle over a protest by the United Union of Roofers-Local 4 in Parsippany. They are picketing the site because non-union roofers are being used to do the work on the future home of Whole Foods.
The union’s business manager, Dave Critchley, was on the picket line with his fellow members today. Critchley explained that most of the jobs on the site are being completed by union labor so at this time, “Work is pretty much at a standstill.” He explained that the bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, operating engineers and other union members were not crossing the picket line but instead most unions were united around the cause. The Ironworkers of Local 11 were the only group that continued their operations on site today.
Critchley projected that it could take several weeks to finish the roofing job on the Whole Foods building. He didn't know whether the construction management group had any intention of trying to work toward some agreement before then. Critchley said, “This is a big project and I plan to be here as long as it takes to rectify it.”
Although the Clark Commons has been touted as a place to create jobs for Clark and Union County, Critchley said, “There are not going to be any high-paying jobs here.” The majority of the jobs in the center when it opens will be retail or hospitality jobs paid at an hourly rate.
According to Critchley, the ability for local residents to have employment during the construction phase of the job has been hampered by the hiring of out-of-town non-union laborers. “My (union) members that live in Clark or Union County should be on this project at all times and they are not,” he said.
A call to March Associates Construction, Inc. of Wayne, the group overseeing the building of Clark Commons, was not returned today.
William Krame, president of Paramus-based Krame Development Company Inc. and the developer of the Clark Commons site, said that unionized labor will be used for roofing on many of the remaining buildings on the site.
Krame said that they use a variety of union and non-union labor on the site and that he estimates "about 80 percent (of the work) at the end of the job,” will have been done by unionized workers when the project is completed. He also said that workers are paid fair wages.
While Krame declined to identify all of the specific tenants coming to the space, he did confirm that the Clark Commons project is estimated to be completed by June 2015.