Laborers, electricians, plumbers, operators, roofers and bricklayers stood shoulder-to-shoulder Wednesday, March 17, alongside the inflatable Scabby the Rat in front of the under-construction Cobblestone Hotel on Tower Avenue.
Horns blared as passersby slowed and waved at the protestors, members of the Northern Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades, as they shared their message: “Shame on Cobblestone. Hire local.”
That’s in addition to handbills the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters are circulating after Cobblestone Hotels hired an out-of-town contractor to build the new hotel in downtown Superior.
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The two actions are separate, said Jeremy Browen, business representative for the carpenters’ council. He said many local contractors bid on the hotel construction project, but the contractor hired for the job came from out of the area.
The handbill the carpenters are circulating urges the public to contact Brian Wogernese, CEO of Cobblestone Hotels, to share their concern about area labor standards and to urge the public to avoid future patronage.
BriMark Builders LLC, based in Neenah, Wisconsin, is the general contractor on the project. The company specializes in hotel construction and renovation and has built more than 80 hotels for Cobblestone Inn & Suites across multiple states, according to the company’s website.
Wogernese did not return calls by the Telegram’s deadline.
Robyn Hansen, general counsel for Cobblestone Hotels, said the company didn't receive any bids from union-member companies, and has attested to the city that prevailing wages are being paid to the private contractors.
“We’re just informing the public that they’re non-local,” said Kyle Bukovich, president of the Northern Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades. “There’s numerous local contractors willing and able to do the work.”
Bukovich said when local labor isn’t hired, the money isn’t reinvested in the community.
“It does not help out our local economy at all,” Bukovich said.
Bukovich acknowledged that local labor was used when tax-incentivized infrastructure for the project was put into it.
“But now that the building’s going up, it’s all private money and it sends a mixed message with Cobblestone Hotels wanting to come and invest in Superior, yet they don’t want to invest in the local workforce that will spend money here, that will go to the Chophouse for dinner or lunch,” Bukovich said.
The new 60-room hotel includes plans for a Wissota Chophouse.
This story was updated at 1:08 p.m. March 19 to add comments from Cobblestone Hotels' general counsel. It was originally posted at 11:20 a.m. March 18.