Carpenters Union and Chase/WAMU gnaw on each other’s nerves


Bleary-eyed commuters were confronted by King Rat outside of three Bay Area Chase banks. Photo courtesy NCCRC.

It’s no fun being a banker today.

The sight of a picket line accompanied by a 15-foot-tall giant rat outside the Chase Bank — formerly Washington Mutual Bank — this morning at the corner of Broadway and 51st in Oakland inspired an outpouring of supportive honks, beeps and thumbs ups from motorists.

And that’s not the only rat around, said Paul Cohen, press spokesman for the Carpenters Union. “We have three rats, a fat cat and a pig. We are currently picketing between 15 and 20 Chase locations.”

But these particular picket lines have less to do with the federal bank bailout than a traditional battle involving union charges about the use of non-union labor by Chase as it invests $375 million in refurbishing 708 branches, 2003 ATMs and opening 20 new branches in California.

Cohen charges that Chase is using DBSI, an Arizona-based construction company, instead of California-based firms. Cohen said that DBSI will send profits back to Arizona and that the union has seen “no evidence” that union workers are being hired for the construction work.

Cohen also said San Francisco Chase bank managers threatened union leafleters with arrest last week.

“We have the right to be there under the first amendment and the NLRB right to picket,” Cohen said, referring to the National Labor Relations Board. “We filed an unfair labor practices claim with the NLRB.”

Gary Kishner, Chase Bank spokesperson, called the union’s claims “plain out false and misleading.” He contends that DBSI has an office in Anaheim and is licensed in California and will be using in-state union subcontractors. As far as the threats to arrest union members who were leafleting the public, Kishner said police were called because some customers felt threatened by the union members picketing near ATMs.

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