Northfield Village -- Members of several unions are calling on Northfield Park to make sure contractors hire union workers as the business builds a $285-million gaming and entertainment facility.

Union workers, who began picketing outside Northfield Park March 18, suspended their protest by March 25 in a "good faith" move, said Jeff Hathaway, business manager with Plasterers' and Cement Masons' Local 109 in Akron.

"We're in negotiations [with the track] for a possible resolution," said Hathaway, adding he did not have any additional details.

Hathaway said picketers had not been at the track for two days.

Track owner Brock Milstein declined to comment March 21 and did not return a followup phone call before press time.

Hathaway told the News Leader March 21 that the protest was in connection with the use of non-union workers by two contractors currently constructing the racino's foundation.

"This was a private bid job, by invitation only," said Hathaway.

Besides his local, said Hathaway, members of Laborers International Union of North America Local 894 in Akron and Iron Workers Local 17, in Cleveland and Akron, were also taking part in the negotiations.

Hathaway noted there has been a lot of positive news about the racino in the area, but not much for unionized workers.

"But for us, the only thing they have done right now is bring in substandard wages," he said.

The protest also included an inflatable rat, roughly 25 feet tall, that Hathaway said was symbolic of the unions' feelings about the use of non-union workers.

Police Chief Mark Wentz said March 20 that the unions had been cooperative.

"Everything's been peaceful so far," said Wentz. "We've spoken to them and they've been compliant with our requests."

Wentz, however, said March 25 that while union leadership, including Hathaway, had continued cooperating, police had heard about random confrontations, including a picketer allegedly punching a construction worker.

Wentz said police had few details.

"No one wanted to report anything," he said.

Wentz said that the protesters were asked to remain peaceful, not to impede anyone from entering or exiting the track property, to stay on the sidewalk, and to park their vehicles in an unused lot across Route 8.

Wentz said the village set up orange construction barrels to clearly delineate where the protesters can be. Hathaway said there were as many as 100 who have taken part in the protest at various times.


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