An estimated 250 affiliated members of the Cleveland Building Trades demonstrated outside a new area Menards store, informing the public about the home improvement chain’s refusal to allow local union contractors to work on the project.
The demonstration, which was organized by the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, was held on a cold and rainy May 4 morning, as members braved the weather to peacefully demonstrate and voice their displeasure over their signatory contractors not getting the chance to bid on the project.
“I was very proud of all our members who came out to demonstrate against Menards,” said Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Dave Wondolowski. “I do not remember the last time I have seen a crowd that big at this type of event. It was quite exhilarating.”
During the demonstration, a number of drivers who appeared to be turning into the Menards parking lot changed their mind after seeing the building trades members demonstrating along Brookpark Road.
Instead of hiring highly skilled and highly trained local tradesmen and tradeswomen, Menards used out-of-state contractors and workers to construct their Brooklyn store location.
First-year IBEW Local 38 apprentice David Gelo, was among the 250 members at the demonstration. Wondolowski said Gelo, 20, from Mayfield Heights, was full of union spirit and determination.
“I was moved by how many Brothers and Sisters were there,” said Gelo. “They are a dedicated group of people and seeing them all there motivated me.”
This was Gelo’s first demonstration and he called it a learning experience.
“One thing I took away from this experience is that this is something all younger members must learn to do and pass it onto the next generation,” he said.
Another Menards store is currently under construction in Mentor and the chain spurned local labor on this project as well. Wondolowski said once the Mentor store opens, building trades members should be prepared to demonstrate in Lake County.