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Sorority’s house renovations met with protests

The Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters set up a banner outside of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Beta Nu chapter house on East 15th Avenue protesting the use of non-union labor on a renovation. Credit: Audrey DuVall / Lantern Reporter

The Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters set up a banner outside of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Beta Nu chapter house on East 15th Avenue protesting the use of non-union labor on a renovation.
Credit: Audrey DuVall / Lantern Reporter

Union workers have taken to the streets to protest an Ohio State sorority hiring non-union workers to renovate its house.

The Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters set up a banner recently outside of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Beta Nu chapter house on East 15th Avenue that stated, “Kappa Kappa Gamma SHAME, SHAME ON YOU!”

IKORCC also passed out fliers stating that the group is protesting the chapter for hiring Cleveland Construction Inc. for the renovation.

Cleveland Construction specializes in general contracting, construction management, design-build and interior trades, according to its website.

The IKORCC flier said Cleveland Construction does not pay its carpenters a fair wage or provide them with proper fringe benefits.

It went on to say that the use of non-union labor will result in a decline in the local economy since workers will have less money to spend.

On its website, IKORCC has a list of other businesses to boycott, including FedEx, Dollar General, Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts.

Multiple phone calls to IKROCC from The Lantern were unreturned.

Kappa Kappa Gamma’s national headquarters, as well as the president of the OSU chapter, directed questions to Tanya Rutner, president of the Beta Nu Building Association.

Rutner said the protest is misdirected.

“Kappa Kappa Gamma is solely the tenant in the building under construction, which is owned by the Beta Nu Building Association,” she said in an email. “Neither the OSU chapter, nor the national organization has any say or control over contracts related to the project.”

The Beta Nu Building Association owns and operates the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter house at OSU.

Rutner said because Beta Nu Building Association is a private nonprofit organization, it’s under no legal obligation to use unionized labor.

“It was the responsibility of our general contractor, Ruscilli Construction, to invite subcontractors to bid on the project. We were not part of the bidding or award process. However, we did review awards before they were issued,” she said.

Union contractors, however, were invited to bid on the job, Rutner said.

“When the invitation to bid was issued for our project, Ruscilli absolutely included union subcontractors in our pool,” Rutner said. “Specifically, both local union carpenter contractors, OCP (Contractors) and Valley (Interior Systems), were invited to bid and neither submitted bids, citing being too busy with other projects and therefore taking themselves out of our potential worker pool from the start. Multiple other unionized trade shops were invited to bid as well and gave us the same response.”

Jim Melaragno, vice president of the Valley Interiors Columbus office, said in an email that the company had other obligations when the project was up for bid.

“We were asked by Ruscilli Construction Company to bid, however at that time, we had all our estimators slated to bid on other work,” he said. “We can’t bid every project, so we also try and look at which projects also fit into our work schedule with the manpower available.”

Rutner said no other union shops bid for the job.

“For the union to now be protesting our project, making it appear as though their workers were left out of the process, feels a bit disingenuous,” she said.

Cleveland Construction declined to comment.

According to its website, Cleveland Construction has done projects all over the country, including the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Despite the protests, the Beta Nu Building Association is pleased with the project, Rutner said.

“Every one of our construction professionals deserves incredible kudos and respect for their efforts,” she said.

Rutner said in a Sunday email the renovations to the house have been completed.

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