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Local News

Carpenters Union Hires Banner Holders in Effort to ‘Shame’ Subcontractor of Hospital Project

Protest signs on display along streets in Santa Barbara and Goleta stem from a labor dispute over Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital's $105 million renovation

The “Shame On” banners can’t help but stick out, and there’s no telling how long they’ll be around. All over Santa Barbara and Goleta, people hired by the local chapter of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America hold the huge, red-printed banners that shout, “Shame On (Name). Labor dispute.”

Carpenters Local 150, based in Camarillo, is in a dispute with CA Hoffman Construction, a subcontractor for HBE Corp. on Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s $105 million renovation project.

Banner holders — who reportedly are not members of the union but are paid an hourly rate to stand at the sites and hand out fliers — are staked out at Cottage Health System hospital entrances and the primary businesses of volunteers on the Board of Directors and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s fundraising foundation.

The banner holders have stood in the public right-of-way during the day and taken the signs away with them each evening, about four days a week for the past month. The city has been getting inquiries from residents — “How can you not?” Community Development Director Paul Casey said — but since the banner holders don’t block sidewalks, the city won’t get involved.

No permits are required for temporary protest signs such as these, which are similar in size to those frequently held by Teamsters employees outside the Santa Barbara News-Press offices on Anacapa Street.

“Shame on Joanne Funari, president,” reads the sign outside Business First Bank on State Street. Funari is a bank president by day and volunteers on the hospital’s nonprofit foundation board, which raises funds for renovations and equipment.

HBE Corp. was hired as the design and build firm, so it hires its own subcontractors; thus, the decision to hire CA Hoffman really has nothing to do with any Cottage Health System board members or employees, spokeswoman Janet O’Neill said.

“We agreed on a dollar amount with them and they build the hospital,” she said. “They’re not negotiating other details with us.”

According to O’Neill, Cottage has not been in direct contact with Carpenters Local 150. It has put up informational posters in its Goleta and Santa Barbara hospital lobbies to let employees and patients know why protesters are occasionally outside the hospital entrances. Scroll below to view the poster.

Fliers handed out by banner holders feature a picture of a rat chewing on a U.S. flag.
Fliers handed out by banner holders feature a picture of a rat chewing on a U.S. flag. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The project at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2014.

The fliers handed out by banner holders feature a picture of a rat chewing on a U.S. flag aside the basics of the so-called dispute. Targeted board members are accused of “contributing to erosion of area standards for local carpenter craft workers,” since Carpenters Local 150 alleges CA Hoffman “does not meet area labor standards” by not providing for health-care and pension plans for workers.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, “holding a stationary banner in place at a secondary employer’s place of business is more like hand-billing than picketing, and so is generally lawful.”

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters is now famous throughout the western United States for this “bannering,” and Chief of Staff Justin Weidner told the Los Angeles Times that the bannering campaigns are effective tactics and they will continue to use them.

There’s no telling how long they’ll stay on the South Coast to protest the hospital project. In Arroyo Grande, Carpenters Local 150 held banners outside Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab store for nine months to protest the proposed new location in the Santa Maria Town Center, because the mall used drywall contractors not approved by the union.

The group has also protested Meathead Movers and the Holiday Inn Express in San Luis Obispo.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Cottage Health System poster

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