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Stadium workers picket in sympathy

For the past few days, a handful of workers have been picketing in front of the stadium construction site at Oak Harbor High School.

Workers from Laborers Local Union 276 and 901 are picketing Ebenal Construction work sites throughout Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties. Ebenal, a Bellingham-based contractor, was hired by the school district as general contractor to build the $6.5 million Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

The strike is to protest what union officials say is unfair labor practices by Ebenal at a Bellingham work site. They contend that the contractor laid off workers as they were organizing a union and then rehired them at reduced wages and no benefits.

“We can’t justify having our guys work at that rate with no benefits,” said Chris Johnson, business manager for Local 276.

He said the union sees that as an unfair labor practice.

Officials from Ebenal Construction could not be reached for comment.

Several workers can be seen picketing at the construction entrance to the stadium site.

Despite the strike, work continues on the stadium and is still on schedule to be ready in time for the fall sports season.

“It’s not affecting the the overall project right now,” said Mitch Romero, project manager who works for the Oak Harbor School District.

He said the steelworkers and electricians are continuing their work on the project and the crucial work those employees are responsible for is still on schedule.

He said these type of strikes typically last only a couple of days.

Johnson said the two sides could meet to negotiate in two weeks.

“We’ll play it by ear,” Johnson said.

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