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8-Foot Inflatable Rat Latest Jab In A Decade-Long Union Dispute

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | St. Louis Public Radio
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1 have positioned an 8-foot inflatable rat outside of St. Louis Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council.

For more than a month, an 8-foot inflatable rat has stood outside the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council on Hampton Avenue. 

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1 are calling out the Carpenters union for working with a contractor they say pays unfair wages and benefits.  

Last year, the Carpenters union hired both Reinhold Electric and an IBEW Local 1 contractor to work on its Health and Wellness Center. Not long after, the IBEW Local 1 contractor and its employees were cut from the project by a business representative for the Carpenters. 

“We thought that they had crossed a line,” said Frank Jacobs, business manager for IBEW Local 1.

This is only the latest chapter of an ongoing dispute between the two unions. In 2008, the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council formed Local 57 for electricians. It’s essentially a chapter within the Carpenters union. 

Reinhold Electric employs Local 57 members. 

Stephanie Fleming, a spokesperson for the council, said claims by IBEW Local 1 that the Carpenters union does business with companies that don’t pay fair wages is not true.

“The Carpenters Wellness Center is a 100 percent union job,” Fleming said. “All tradesmen and women are members of a union. They are all expertly trained. They are all well compensated. They earn really strong wages and have superior benefit coverage for themselves and their families.” 

Fleming said Local 57 members also belong to the Carpenters Regional Council, so she said it made sense for them to work on the Carpenters’ Health and Wellness Center.

“We hired our members to perform work at our building on our property,” she said.

For Jacobs, though, the issue at hand goes beyond being dropped from the project. 

He said the Carpenters union also has put up banners and handed out a flyer claiming that other employers don’t pay fair wages. Meanwhile, Jacobs said the same is true of contractors Local 57 works with.

“I think that’s a pretty definition of hypocrisy,” he said.

As for the rat, Jacobs said it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.