Union protests with giant rat display
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A giant inflatable rat sits on Lincoln Street across from the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles on Thursday as Bill Hammon, safety engeneer for Watts Constructors speaks with Mitch Garrett of Port Angeles, right. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- About six laborers protested a job expo Thursday -- not with signs, but with a gigantic inflated rat tethered to the bed of a truck.

The Olympic Peninsula Building and Construction Trades Council positioned the truck and its symbolic message on Lincoln Street across from the Red Lion Hotel at the site of an expo held by Watts Constructors.

The union wanted to highlight possible contractor opportunities for the upcoming construction of the new Lower Elwha Klallam fish hatchery.

Union President Lee Whetham said the group was protesting Watts' hiring practices in regard to the construction of two water treatment plants as part of the National Park Service's project to remove the two Elwha River dams.

Whetham said they hadn't hired enough local people.

A conversation between him and Watts Safety Manager Bill Hammond, who walked over to speak with the protestors, didn't take long to become heated on Whetham's part.

"You are [expletive deleted] the local economy," Whetham told Hammond.

Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said 68 percent of the 117 people building the treatment plant on the Elwha River in April were from the North Olympic Peninsula.

She didn't have employment figures for construction of the Port Angeles plant that will treat drinking water. The plant on the river will remove silt for the industrial waterline and soon-to-be-built fish hatchery after the dams are removed.

Tim Yedinak, Watts project manager for the Port Angeles plant, said the company is focused on hiring locally.

"That's why we are having this [expo]," he said.

Yedinak said nearly all of the sub-contractors on the Port Angeles plant job were from the area.

They include DelHur Industries, Lakeside Industries, Specialized Concrete, Capacity Provisioning Inc., Cole Plumbing and C & J Trucking.

Sub-contractors not from the Peninsula are Robinson Painting of Tumwater and Sack and Patch, Yedinak said.

He said 90 percent of the 20 or so people currently working on the job live between Forks and Gig Harbor.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 20. 2009 9:47PM
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