Laborers picketing union and nonunion contractors at Ridgedale Shopping Center

Pics provided by the Laborers showing an open escalator shaft and electrical box inside Ridgedale Center
Thursday, the Laborers' International Union of North America wrapped up its second day of picketing outside Ridgedale Shopping Center, calling on workers to swap tools for signs.

Organizers say for months they've been gathering evidence of safety violations on construction sites that are accessible to the public. The Minnetonka mall remains open while it's undergoing a $100 million facelift and individual tenants work on projects of their own.

See also:
MN labor expert: Effect of home health care unions unclear

Joe Fowler, a business agent for Local 563, says that in May he showed photographs of various safety hazards throughout the mall to Chicago-based General Growth Properties with the hope that the mall's owner would put pressure on the contractors who hired the workers -- some union, some non.

"Hey, you're shopping in a place where your kid could walk on a construction site and play with an electrical box," Fowler says. "That's the way we look at it. And we're running into this again and again."

We asked David Keating, a spokesman for the mall owners, to weigh in, but he turned us down. "We are not able to accommodate an interview," he wrote in an email, "but what we want to emphasize and reiterate is that safety has always been a priority at all of our malls (and will continue to be a priority)."

Andre Stouvenel was fuming when we called him Wednesday night because the name of his drywall company, Commercial Systems, had appeared on a Laborers' sign. He's been working on the renovation of the Helzberg Diamonds store, and hired a union subcontractor to handle some of the electrical work that's now being criticized.

What the picket really comes down to, he says, is not safety but wages: The Laborers want to pressure the mall into signing a union-only work policy. "If they were really concerned about exposing a hazard to the public, they'd just call an inspector and have it shut down," Stouvenel says.

The Laborers makes no bones about wages on mall grounds. But they also take the position that, whether or not union workers are involved, and no matter what the private agreements might say, the people doing the hiring cannot absolve themselves of a dangerous environment. They point to a fire that broke out two days before Thanksgiving on the roof of a Macy's construction area.

"From our perspective, every contractor has a legal and moral responsibility over the site," says Kevin Pranis, an organizing director.

Helzberg's corporate office never returned our message, and its Ridgedale employees declined to comment on the picket. But when asked whether there had been any problems with store construction, a manager says, "All I know, the air conditioner is working."

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
digitalprotocol topcommenter

malls are fucking DEAD people

what a waste of money and time

Aida Cantu-Reza
Aida Cantu-Reza

Who goes to ridgedale anymore? Even with the possibility of nordstroms, malls are awful.

Jason McCain
Jason McCain

Malls are boring \U0001f634\U0001f634\U0001f634

Jeff Schwartz
Jeff Schwartz

Malls are doomed for sure, plus you are getting ripped off on everything not on sale there.

Todd Johnson
Todd Johnson

Malls have been dead since the internet.

John Saxhaug
John Saxhaug

That pic is inside the old Macy's men's and home store which has already been demolished.

Angela Salzl
Angela Salzl

This actually only came about because Nordstrom is moving in. And require a large space with a lot of changes...... So thank goodness cause that mall fell off

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault