Labor clash slows Arlington Downs construction
A clash between union workers and developers shut down construction at Arlington Downs last week and led to protests outside of an Arlington Economic Alliance meeting in downtown Arlington Heights on Wednesday morning.
A few dozen protesters picketed peacefully outside the meeting about Arlington Downs, saying they were upset about contractors on the project bringing in out-of-state workers and using nonunion employees on the project.
Arlington Downs is a massive $250 million redevelopment of the former Sheraton hotel campus just west of Arlington Park, near Euclid and Rohlwing roads. It will include a water park, hotel, retail and residential towers.
Patrick McCarthy, organizer with Plumbers Local #130, said 20-30 percent of the work is being performed by workers being bused in from Wisconsin each day.
"We want to keep money in and jobs in Illinois, they shouldn't be using workers from out of state when we have people in Illinois looking for work," McCarthy said.
Arlington Heights police monitored Wednesday's protest, which included union members from several labor organizations holding signs and a large inflatable rat.
"They are busing people in from Wisconsin for less wages and it's not fair to workers in this area," said Eric Olson, with the Sheet Metal Workers' Local Union #73.
"A lot of people are hurting in this area."
Work on the project was halted last week as union laborers refused to cross the picket line set up by various unions, said David Trandel, CEO of Stonestreet Partners, developer on the project.
"That's lost time and money that we can't get back," Trandel said. "Every week you don't get rent, it's not like we can recoup that at some point."
Trandel said he didn't know how many workers are coming from out of state, but he said he will look into it.
Representatives from the developer's general contractor, Tishman Construction, and the National Labor Federation are continuing to work this week on solving the dispute, but workers are back on the job. Trandel said he is not a part of those negotiations.
Another issue being discussed is the presence of nonunion workers on the Arlington Downs project.
Trandel said that 65 to 70 percent of the project is being done by union workers. He said the actual breakdown is not up to his company, Stonestreet Partners, but the general contractor they selected, Tishman Construction.
"They have a budget to get to and they are the ones who find subcontractors to do the work so there's not much we can do about it," Trandel said. "We are on a short timeline for this project so availability of labor is also an issue."
Construction workers are in the process of converting the former Sheraton hotel into a tower of luxury apartments that is expected to open this summer.
"From what I know the nonunion guys are making as much as the union guys," said Rick Cavenaugh, president of Stoneleigh Properties, which is developing the apartments.
"This project was very aggressively bid," he said, saying the quality of the project is their top concern.