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Union pickets for deal with Minn. firm in Oak Creek

Leroy Miller (left) and Jim Dewar, both members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, picket outside The Waters of Oak Creek senior-living center on Tuesday. The union decided to protest because it is seeking recognition from the general contractor Frana Companies, of Hopkins, Minn., as the majority representative of the operating engineers working on the project. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Leroy Miller (left) and Jim Dewar, both members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, picket outside The Waters of Oak Creek senior-living center on Tuesday. The union decided to protest because it is seeking recognition from the general contractor Frana Companies, of Hopkins, Minn., as the majority representative of the operating engineers working on the project. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Workers walked away from building an apartment complex in Oak Creek on Tuesday after a Milwaukee-area union and out-of-state firm failed to reach a deal on the project’s employment terms.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 picketed The Waters of Oak Creek, a 4-story mixed-use project, after discussions broke down with Frana Companies, a Hopkins, Minnesota-based general contractor.

About a dozen people carried signs on Tuesday in front of the site, demanding that Frana recognize Local 139 as the majority bargaining representative for operating engineers working on the project.

Michael Ervin, an organizer for Local 139, said union officials had for two weeks sought an agreement with Frana to no avail.

On Monday, Ervin said, union officials spoke with Frana again, but “it didn’t sound like they were interested,” in negotiating. He said union officials hope their demonstration will bring Frana back to the bargaining table.

“The bottom line is, we just want to do business with them,” Ervin said. “We’re there to help. (Frana) just pushed us to this point. That obviously isn’t making them very happy.”

Without a commitment from Frana, Veit & Company and Middleton Construction, two union-affiliated firms, work stopped on the project, halting a large concrete pour, Ervin said.

At least one other company, the carpentry contractor Wellenstien & Sons, resumed work at about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, after most of the protesting workers had left the site. Rick Wellenstien, of Wellenstien & Sons, declined to comment.

Frana, meanwhile, maintains that work continues on the Waters project. Mike Benedict, president of Frana, said there was “no work stoppage,” at the site, but declined to comment further.

The Waters of Oak Creek is a four-story development with 136 apartment homes in the Drexel Town Square development. The project is owned by The Waters Senior Living, a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company that operates nine senior-living sites in Minnesota and another in Pennsylvania. The Oak Creek project is its first foray into Wisconsin.

A spokeswoman for The Waters denied that there was a work stoppage at the Oak Creek construction site, but declined to comment further.

“Our response is that we’re continuing to press forward and not be involved with that,” said Kirstie Plows, brand and marketing manager for The Waters.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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