Hired by North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, these men hold the sign and hand out fliers to those who ask for more information.
For the past four months, a 20-foot-long sign has loomed in front of the Monkey Bar Gymnasium, charging the business with shameful behavior over a "labor dispute." The same three men hold the sign Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain, snow or shine. They followed the gym from its former location on Williamson Street to its current space on the corner of East Washington Avenue and First Street.
Hired by North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters (NCSRCC), these men hold the sign and hand out fliers to those who ask for more information. They say they are not union members but are paid a living wage. They are forbidden to explain the details of the dispute.
The flier they distribute, like the sign, is biting. In addition to blaming Monkey Bar Gym for "desecration of the American way of life," it also features a grim-faced rat gnawing on a tattered American flag. According to the flier, the labor union objects to Krupp General Contractors hiring Suburban Drywall Inc., a non-union shop, to perform work on Monkey Bar's new space. Suburban Drywall Inc. is a rat, or a contractor "that does not meet area labor standards for all their carpenter craft workers, including fully paying for family health benefits and pension," the flier states.
North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters has remained stubbornly silent in the face of questions about its protest. Phone messages left at the number provided on the flier have gone unreturned. Calls and messages to their offices in Madison, Eau Claire, and their St. Paul headquarters, at different times and days of the week, have also never been returned.
On two occasions, two people at two separate NCSRCC offices have sworn emphatically that a phone call would be returned that day or the next, but no calls ever materialized. Someone named "Tony" from the union once left a voicemail, but then never answered a returned call.
Jon Hinds, owner and head trainer of the Monkey Bar Gymnasium, says he has made close to 100 unsuccessful attempts to talk to union officials since the protest began. Hinds says he isn't even quite sure what the union is protesting, since all labor at both his Madison locations was coordinated by his landlords.
The allegations and union's refusal to talk about its protest are unfair, Hinds adds. He is especially upset over the suggestion that that he is unpatriotic, saying such damage is difficult to repair. "They were so slanderous it was unbelievable," he says in reference to the fliers.
"The thing that's so crazy is that I can't do anything about it," says Hinds. "It's so unethical."