NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) – On Monday evening Normal’s Uptown Circle was filled with chants as union workers protested the town of Normal for what they say is not fair policy.
Crews from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 197 lead the charge, saying town leaders aren’t requiring businesses to hire local workers for their projects. They say the town continuously hands out tax incentive agreements to businesses, and while that in itself is a positive thing, there is nothing requiring these businesses to hire local workers. Meaning they are going elsewhere to find workers to do the job.
They noted electric car company Rivian, saying they were given tax incentives from the town to begin construction, but have chosen people from outside of McLean County to complete the work.
“Anything with public tax money, tax incentives, there should be provisions for local workforce groups,” said Mike Raikes, Business Manager for IBEW Local 197. “We’ve asked for these provisions to be put in place and we are always told now is not the right time. We’re tired of seeing foreign workers in our community, and out of town out of state workers, who don’t pay area standard wages and benefits.”
Rivian responded to the claims writing this in a statement “We have been in discussions with a growing number of trades since arriving in Normal. Currently over 80% of on-site construction work is being performed by union laborers.”
It went on to say “Rivian’s general contractors are directed to utilize local trades as often as possible, within time and cost constraints. We look forward to continuing strong and growing relationships with our local trades.”
In a statement sent to WMBD, City Manager Pamela Reece wrote “The Town has addressed Project Labor Agreements on a case-by-case basis. We last used one with the construction of Uptown Station. I am unaware of any other community in Illinois that links PLA’s to incentives but if we consider this, it would be with a standardized incentive program that all taxing bodies would buy into.”
Raikes says, they plan to continue to protest until this issue is addressed by the Normal Town Council.