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Manna for lazy bloggers everywhere – the Dept. of You Couldn't Make It Up [source]: The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message. … Read More

By / July 25, 2007

Manna for lazy bloggers everywhere – the Dept. of You Couldn't Make It Up [source]:

The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message.

Many have arrived with large suitcases or bags holding their belongings, which they keep in sight. Several are smoking cigarettes. One works a crossword puzzle. Another bangs a tambourine, while several drum on large white buckets. Some of the men walking the line call out to passing women, "Hey, baby." A few picketers gyrate and dance while chanting: "What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now."

Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members. They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs.

"It's about the cash," said Tina Shaw, 44, who lives in a House of Ruth women's shelter and has walked the line at various sites. "We're against low wages, but I'm here for the cash."

I just love that.

Carpenters locals across the country are outsourcing their picket lines, hiring the homeless, students, retirees and day laborers to get their message across. Larry Hujo, a spokesman for the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, calls it a "shift in the paradigm" of picketing.

Even union leaders talk like PR guys these days. Jimmy Hoffa must be turning in his grave, wherever it is.

The carpenters union is one of the most active picketers in the District, routinely staging as many as eight picket lines a day at buildings where construction or renovation work is being done without union labor.

Supporters of the practice consider it a creative tactic in an era of declining union membership and clout. But critics say the reliance on nonunion members — who are paid $1 above minimum wage and receive no benefits — diminishes the impact and undercuts a principle established over decades of union struggles.

What delicious, copper-plated hypocrisy.

Hiring people off the streets and paying them to stand on the sidewalk holding a placard would be amusing enough. But paying them a pittance to lobby for better pay and conditions for your guys? That, my friends, is – how do you say? – chutzpah.

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