Local union workers protest grocery store's hiring choices

By WEEK Reporter

September 7, 2013 Updated Sep 7, 2013 at 10:43 PM CDT

BARTONVILLE, Ill. -- Some local union workers are angry about hiring practices of a grocery store chain. Several of them protested outside Kroger in Bartonville on Saturday.

Recently that Kroger hired more than a dozen out-of-area workers to complete a $3 million construction project inside the grocery store.

Executive Director of The Building and Construction Trades Council, Marty Helfers, says he was surprised by the decision from the grocery chain, which has been known to hire local workers in the past.

"It seems a little ludicrous that they would seek to use non-signatory contractors, which import their workers to Central Illinois when we have 30% unemployment," said Marty Helfers, of Building and Construction Trades Council. "Our goal with the demonstration is turn the job."

By turning the job, Helfers means getting the contracted workers out of the building by as early as Monday, and putting nearly 15 local workers on the job.

Jake Moody of East Peoria is one union member who is affected. He says about six of his carpenter workers are out of a job because of the out-sourcing.

"Cost may have been a part of it," said Moody, a representative for Local Carpenters. "But at the same time, we are going to be the ones who come back and buy groceries here and put food on our tables. You always have to remember that."

According to labor union reps, last year, building trades workers spent more than $9 million on prescriptions at Kroger pharmacies across the nation.

However, if the Kroger doesn't have a change of heart, several workers say money from their pockets won't be going to Kroger anymore.

"I will go to a different store, absolutely," said Lisa Kohl, a Local 649 Engineer. "People in the community need jobs and when you are taking it elsewhere and bringing in other people is not right. The people that shop here and spend there money here should be the people making money at the store."

Union reps say they hope this protest will have similar results to last years protest at Aldi on Sterling Avenue in Peoria. They say since then, Aldi has hired local construction workers for their stores in Washington and East Peoria.

Kroger representatives have not respond to our request for a statement.

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