After more than a month of failed talks, a Merrillville-based roofers' union and a group of roofing contractors have yet to resolve their differences in efforts to reach a new labor agreement.
The majority of members in United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 26 traded their tools for picket signs after the previous contract expired May 31. The strike began the following day and workers have picketed outside contractors' businesses and on their project sites around the area.
"Nothing's going to change until we get a contract," said Don Schwartz, a Chicago-based attorney the union has retained.
Schwartz, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Arnold & Kadjan, said the insistence of the Northwest Indiana Roofing Contractors Association to not amend its position on collecting union dues is one of the main sticking points. He said the companies want full discretion to stop automatic collection dues and disbursing the funds to the union if a person says he or she doesn't want that to happen.
By Indiana being a right-to-work state, nonunion employees at a union employer are allowed to receive union-provided representation and grievance services without paying fees to the union.
Pete Korellis, president and co-owner of Korellis Roofing in Hammond, said the parties aren't any closer to an agreement after meeting last week.
"We will do dues checkoff but won't accept legal liability if it goes bad," Korellis said.
Korellis, who also is a spokesman for the roofing contractors group, said he's disappointed that some union members have resorted to making personal attacks against him through signs at picket sites.
With the tone of picketing and reported intimidation within the last couple months, Korellis said his company filed a charge Friday with the National Labor Relations Board against the union citing unfair labor practices.
Schwartz said the filing of the charge is an "escalation" of what is already a contentious situation.
Schwartz also said the union sent a request for mediation of the current labor situation last week. However, he said he is optimistic the union and contractors would reach a fair agreement that would return employees to work.