Workers continue walkout 2nd day 150 in building trades hold protest strike at convention center


About 150 construction workers at the Baltimore Convention Center's expansion project picketed for a second day yesterday to protest what they called the illegal removal of nine carpenters solely because of their union affiliation.

The job action, led by the Carpenters District Council -- Baltimore and Vicinity, included members of several unions representing building trades.

Workers participating in the walkout comprise about three-fourths of the 200 regular workers, union leaders said.

The walkout centers on a dispute that grew out of the December dismissal of nine carpenters by Miller, Long & Arnold Co. Inc. because, union leaders charge, the company learned of their membership in the carpenters union. Miller, Long & Arnold, an affiliate of a Bethesda company that employs more than 300 in Baltimore, is an open shop without a union.

The company says it dismissed the employees because they had violated company rules by distributing union materials during work hours or trying to persuade workers to join the union.

The carpenters union, the local affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which has set a Dec. 5 hearing on the dispute.

"This is discrimination against union members. You can't hire and fire just because of an organization somebody belongs to -- just as you can't fire someone for being a member of a Moose lodge," said George R. Eisner, union representative for the carpenters union.

But E. J. Robinson, personnel and safety director for Miller, Long & Arnold, said that the employees knew the rules, spelled out in written company policies that clearly state violations would be grounds for dismissal.

"The union action is simply an effort to undermine the open shop philosophy," Mr. Robinson said, referring to the policy of employing workers without regard to whether they are union members.

He said the carpenters' union has tried unsuccessfully for years to expand its ranks by soliciting employees and distributing literature at the company.

"We don't care whether you're [union]-affiliated or not; we don't discriminate against anyone based on their membership in any shop. If we need employees, and we need carpenters, we're going to hire you no matter what."

The convention center is in the midst of a $151 million expansion and upgrading. The expanded center is to open by next September.

Officials from the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Convention Center could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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