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Protest at tire store targets labor practices

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By Vicky Gits

A protest linked to Carpenters Union Local 55 is under way at Les Schwab Tires at West Bowles Avenue and South Alkire Street to draw attention to a claim of unfair labor practices.

The Les Schwab Co., which is based in Bend, Ore., says the dispute is between a contractor and subcontractor of the new store and has nothing to do with the company.

About four days a week, a couple of hired workers have been posting a banner on the sidewalk south of the store and passing out fliers to people who stop and ask questions.

The fliers are attributed to members of Carpenters Local 55 and include a phone number to call for more information. There is a voice-mail box attached to the number, but repeated calls and messages in the last week have gone unanswered.

The Les Schwab Co. maintains that a third party, not Les Schwab, is actually the target of the protest.

“The picketing near Les Schwab’s Littleton-Bowles store is part of a labor dispute between the general contractor and its subcontractors who worked on the store’s construction. Les Schwab has no involvement in this dispute and is unable to provide further comment,” Diane Aboulafia, a spokesperson for Les Schwab Tire Center, said in an e-mail.

The people stationed at the sign said they were not associated with the union but were paid to be there to set up the sign and take it down at the end of the day.

The flier says a Fort Collins-based company, Precision Applications, “does not meet area labor standards for all of their carpenter craft workers, including fully paying for health benefits.”

A person who identified himself as the owner of Precision Applications confirmed that his company had worked on the new Schwab tire centers in metro Denver, including the one on Alkire Street.

The company is an open shop, meaning a non-union company, said the person, who declined to state his name for attribution.

He said he employed about 25 people and offered health benefits after six months, but that most people refused to take them because they didn’t want to pay their half. He would not give any information about how the wages compare to union wages.