Fired cabinetmakers take their message to state lawmakers

Cabinetmakers who say they were fired by Aaron Carlson Corp. for union organizing are bannering the state Capitol this week – where the company’s cabinets and millwork are being installed as part of the building’s renovation.

A group of cabinetmakers has been on strike at Aaron Carlson’s Morris facility since April 11, seeking recognition of the Carpenters’ union as their collective bargaining representative. The union already represents workers at the company’s plant in Northeast Minneapolis.

On April 29, they were told they were fired and the Morris plant was being closed. The workers have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board and are seeking an injunction that could force the company to re-open the Morris facility.

On Monday morning, they held a banner declaring “Shame on Aaron Carlson” in front of the worksite at the Capitol and across the street from the state Senate Office Building, where lawmakers are conducting much of their business while the Capitol is closed.

Paul Cloer, business agent for the Carpenters Industrial Council said the banner is to call attention to the company’s unfair labor practices and is not intended to stop work on the site.

By the afternoon, several legislators had stopped by to find out what the banner was all about.

It’s important, Cloer said, that customers know what is happening at Aaron Carlson, he said.

“We are told Aaron Carlson is weeks behind on delivery for this project,” Cloer said. “If you are weeks behind, why would you let these experienced cabinetmakers go?”

Peter Kelly, one of those at Monday morning’s bannering, said, “We don’t want to be out here doing this kind of stuff,” but said the company forced the action by firing the workers. The workers and their families are getting help from the union and other supporters to pay the bills, but “that being said, we’d make a lot more money putting our skills to work,” he said.

Workers said they want the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to represent them in the workplace, a right they have under federal labor law.

Aaron Carlson has “the opportunity to do the right thing,” rehire the workers and recognize their union, Cloer said.

Article by Barb Kucera reprinted from WorkdayMinnesota.