PROMINENT LABOR REP CHOSE NON-UNION CONTRACTOR – HOME CONSTRUCTION: KEN LOEFFLER-KEMP, WHO REPRESENTS AFSCME, SAID HE DIDN’T KNOW OF ANY LOCAL UNION CONTRACTORS WHO BUILD PRIVATE HOMES.
Duluth News Tribune (MN) – Saturday, July 21, 2007
Author: CHRIS HAMILTON NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
High-profile city of Duluth labor representative Ken Loeffler-Kemp has found himself under fire this summer for employing non-union labor to build his home in the Hawk Ridge development in Lester Park.
“My understanding was that there were no union contractors in the city doing private residential construction,” Loeffler-Kemp said Friday afternoon after a union rally outside City Hall. “I was wrong, and that I regret.”
Craig Olson, president of the Duluth Building and Trades Council, said he’s disappointed with Loeffler-Kemp’s decision but believes it was primarily because of a lack of information. However, Olson said some union members still are considering whether to organize pickets at the partially completed home at 2902 Bald Eagle Trail.
“There are some people unhappy with him, saying, Why talk the talk, but not walk the walk?’ ” Olson said.
Olson said council members met with Loeffler-Kemp after receiving an anonymous tip and decided they need to do a better job of educating labor leadership about their office and its ability to offer referrals to union contractors.
Steve Risacher, field representative for Duluth Carpenters Local 361, echoed Olson’s disappointment.
“It was not a good thing,” he said.
The city and Loeffler-Kemp’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 66, remain at odds over an unsettled contract. And while the rumor about Loeffler-Kemp’s decision has been floating around the community for months, the information was more formally passed along to the News Tribune by an anonymous source in City Hall.
Loeffler-Kemp said that he believes the story was leaked to undermine AFSCME’s credibility with the public.
“It didn’t come from me,” said Mayor Herb Bergson, whose leadership and re- election campaign has been the target of AFSMCE all week. “I live in the fishbowl, and I don’t want to join in on kicking someone about their personal lives.”
Bergson said despite the public animosity, he considers Loeffler-Kemp and his community- and environmental-activist wife, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, to be friends and has socialized with them.
According the city assessor’s office, the Loeffler-Kemps’ property was valued at $81,400 on Jan. 2. While that number included the land value, the unfinished home was valued at only $33,500.
When completed, the two-story single-family home will have 3,456 square feet with three bedrooms and three baths, with a detached two-story garage, according to the city permitting office. Loeffler-Kemp said he did not know what it eventually would be worth.
For the general contractor, Loeffler-Kemp hired Northern Trends Building & Design Inc., which is a family-owned Duluth business. He said that he is using union electricians on the project and is doing much of the construction himself.
Olson said the Building and Trade Council also is picketing another prominent Duluthian, mayoral candidate Charlie Bell, who is building a condominium project near the Munger Trail in West Duluth without union general contractors.