Local group protests out-of-area contractors

MARQUETTE – A group of area volunteers is picketing this week promoting “Local Jobs for Local Workers” and protesting the hiring of out-of-the-area contractors for a commercial building project in Marquette Township.

Innovative Construction Consultants Inc. of Brookfield, Wis., is building a new Ulta Beauty outlet next to Pet Smart in Marquette Township.

John Kleiber of Gladstone, who has an office in Marquette, said he has organized volunteers for informational pickets at several Upper Peninsula communities. He said he is an Upper Peninsula union business representative with the Bricklayers and Allied Crafts Local 9, but his efforts are not union-affiliated and are aimed at jobs for local union and non-union employees alike.

“This is not a union issue, it’s about local workers in general,” Kleiber said.

Kleiber said the construction manager and iron erector are from Wisconsin and the masonry company on the project was from downstate.

“This is all about keeping these local jobs down here on this site behind us,” Kleiber said.

Innovative Construction Consultants Inc. declined to comment on the issue.

The informational picketers have been on the site since Monday and intend to be at the intersection from 7 to 10:30 a.m. for the next several days. They may also consider picketing during the afternoon rush hour too, if more volunteers join the effort.

“We’re just trying to raise awareness in the community,” Kleiber said. “I don’t believe the community should support stores that don’t support them from the beginning.”

Kleiber said the workers from out of the area will take the wages they earn out of the region.

“The people working here, this is their livelihood,” Kleiber said. “They’re going to take as much of that money home to their families as they can. That’s just human nature. When you’re on the road working, you live as cheap as you can. You got to send it home to mama.”

Conversely, Kleiber said money made by local workers is spent locally.

“Every dollar earned locally gets spent seven times over in the local community. That turns into seven other peoples’ wages, supporting the local stores, not being shipped out, and that’s what’s going to keep our economy going,” he said.

Kleiber said the construction companies are coming from rural areas where they have a lower cost of living, compared to Marquette

“The reason these stores are building here is because Marquette generally has a higher standard of living, a higher area standard wage,” Kleiber said.

Kleiber said local developers are behind the construction projects and local residents can demand local workers, if they stand up for themselves.

“We’ve got to remember this is no longer a manufacturing economy. It is a consumer-driven economy,” Kleiber said. “Well, if they keep shipping this money out of the area, what happens to the local economy … it’s all about the economy and the local worker.”

Kleiber said the picketers are trying to bring back the shriveling U.P. economy. He said he picked himself to organize the effort on behalf of local workers.

“They all care about their hometown, many of them just don’t know how to get it going,” Kleiber said. “We’re looking for other volunteers from the community. Everyone is welcome.”

Kleiber also organized an informational picket during construction of the Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Marquette Township in 2008.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.