Local workers protesting South Bend hiring practices
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Before Thursday’s South Bend Cubs game, about 50 local trade workers came out to protest the city’s hiring out-of-town contractors to complete the Ivy at Berlin Place development project.
Before excited families filed into Four Winds Thursday, there was a stark contrast in sound on the outskirts.
Young men, older men, and even little girls stood with signs in hand.
“We’re out here to try to gain local jobs for local employees,” said Business Manager for the local Plumbers and Pipefitters union, Kurt Meade.
The city of South Bend awarded contracts to out-of-town companies this year to work on the future ‘Ivy at Berlin Place.’
“We’re just upset with tax dollars from our city being moved out of our area when we want to keep the jobs local,” President for the local Electrical Workers union, Mike Leda.
“Our complaint is not with the South Bend Cubs,” said Meade.
”They’ve done a lot of work out here over the past couple years. We certainly appreciate the work that they do, and I’m sure that there’s going to be more projects that we do in the future,” said President of South Bend Cubs, Joe Hart.
“If a local worker is on this project or local contractor bides it whether it’s union or non-union, we wouldn’t have a problem with that. It’s the fact that it’s a city-funded project. They sold the property for a dollar a parcel and awarded TIF funds for the project and then there’s not a local person working on this project. That’s our problem,” said Meade.
It’s a problem, the mayor says the city couldn’t avoid.
In a statement to ABC 57 news, Mayor Pete Buttigieg writes:
‘"State law requires the city to select the lowest bid from a qualified bidder, and that's what the board of works did in this case. We strongly support maximizing opportunities for skilled workers earning the best wages…we are in close contact with the building trades and the developer to find a way forward on this project. My administration is committed to a competitive and transparent process that supports job growth and puts local, skilled workers on a level playing field."
“We’ve been here, we raise here, we do a lot of work here as the building trades our self, and this is our community, and we’re proud of it, and we want to build this building,” said Leda.
As local tradesman watch out-of-towners doing what they consider to be their job--building up the place where everyone comes to play—they’re hoping this protest makes it so they can put down their pickets moving forward.
“Our goal is the future. We want the city of South Bend to realize we’re with them, you know in a partnership to build South Bend. That’s our goal,” said Leda.
The trade workers say the company that South Bend ended up hiring bid at half the price of the local contractors.
The city is legally required to choose the lowest qualified bidder.