IBEW 1 Banners S.M. Wilson Headquarters

By on April 6, 2015

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

This work week began with hand billers from IBEW Local 1 stationed with banners in front of the headquarters of S.M. Wilson & Co. on Hampton Avenue.

The IBEW members were passing out handbills decrying Wilson for performing work at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Washington, MO; Covenant Apartments II in Maryland Heights; CertainTeed Roofing in Jonesburg, MO; and Walmart in Shrewsbury, “with Electrical Contractors who pays (sic) their employees far less than the area standard wages and benefits for similar work in this area which is (sic) earned by our members.”

Three of the electrical contractors who are performing that work for Wilson employ electricians who are members of Carpenters District Council of St. Louis and Vicinity Local 57, a longstanding labor conflict in the area. One of the electrical contractors is nonunion. But the timing of the picketing was about more than the labor conflict. The CertainTeed project began two years ago. The Dick’s project is near completion and Walmart Shrewsbury is under way.

The tipping point appears to have been the Covenant Apartments project. And that’s where the reasons for the picketing get blurry. That project has an MBE inclusion component that requires that 30 percent of the work be awarded to an MBE contractor. Power Up Electrical Contractors was awarded the work on Covenant by Wilson. Power Up employs Local 57 electricians. According to Frank Jacobs, business manager for IBEW Local 1, IBEW signatory contractors were originally the low bidders. Jacobs said that they were told after the bids were in.

“S.M. Wilson took all of our contractor’s bids and after the bids were in, picked a contractor whose bid was 20 percent higher than anybody else.” Jacobs said S.M. Wilson told the IBEW contractors that they needed minority participation. Jacobs said that his signatory contractors told Wilson that they could put 100 percent minority workers on the job. According to Jacobs understanding, the IBEW contractors were then told that Wilson was interested in Power Up’s minority ownership.


Founded and owned by Michael Kennedy, Jr., Power UP Electrical Contractors, LLC is the largest minority-owned electrical contractor in the area.  Kennedy is also president of St. Louis-based, minority-owned KAI Design & Build

Hand bill circulated by members of IBEW Local 1 at S.M. Wilson headquarters.

“If (the need to award the project to an MBE) is the case, put it out for minority bid only, but don’t waste my contractors’ time,” Jacobs said. “(Power Up) are not going to put any minorities on the ground.”

Jacobs stated that S.M. Wilson has been putting IBEW signatory electrical contractors “through the wringer” about minority participation on the IKEA project. In a recent op-ed piece on the ConstructForSTL.org website, Jacobs stated that his union has minority workers available.

“We have unemployed minorities,” Jacobs said Monday.  “All that (contractors) have to do is make the request for that. I will make the request for an African American I’ll take heat from my union members. Our last apprenticeship class was 37% minority.”

In a statement released to ConstructForSTL.org, Power Up’s Michael Kennedy said:

“Power UP believes that all Owners, public or private, and General Contractors should always have a choice when it comes to selecting qualified and competitive contractors to perform the work on their projects based on whatever criteria they determine.  Power UP believes that (a) Local 57 focuses on training and equipping their members to provide compelling value in the marketplace, and (b) Local 57’s members earn excellent wages and benefits commensurate with the 24,000 plus members of the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity.

 “Power UP believes that all contractors should have the opportunity to properly compete based on price and qualifications.

 “With respect to employment of minorities, Power UP is proud of its well documented track record of exceeding “boots on the ground” criteria on projects throughout the St. Louis region, and intends to continue its commitment to developing a best of class inclusive workforce that represents the communities in which we live and work.”

Scott Wilson, CEO of S.M. Wilson, said that Power Up, “is a serious player, with good pricing.” He said that his company was willing to entertain bids from both Local 57 and IBEW Local 1 contractors on future work. The Dick’s Sporting Goods electrical contractor is Reinhold Electric, a Local 57 signatory. The Jonesburg CertainTeed Roofing project electrical was Bates Electric, which is nonunion. Bates and Reinhold are electrical contractors on the Shrewsbury Walmart.

Terry Nelson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity, declined comment at this time.

S.M. Wilson & Co. has been selected to build Phase 1 of a three-phase Master Plan project for Covenant Place independent senior living center on the Jewish Community’s Millstone Campus in St. Louis County, Missouri. Phase 1 will consist of the construction of a 92,000 square-foot facility with 101 independent living units featuring full kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms

According to Covenant Place, the Master Plan is a three-phase project that increases the level and quality of services for seniors living on the Millstone campus and in the surrounding community, while addressing the increasing obsolescence and inadequacies of the current buildings. The plan includes 355 apartments in new four-story, universally-designed, sustainable buildings as well as a Senior Lifestyle Center that will house a range of services and amenities. All of the apartments will be affordable, with 320 apartments preserving the existing HUD Section 8 contracts.

About Tom Finan


  1. David S

    04/07/2015 at 2:51 PM

    If IBEW local 1 and the AFL/CIO were really worried about fair wages, they would add Walmart to their boycott list. Walmart employees are non-union, and the products being sold are predominantly foreign made. Picketing tradespeople who have chosen to organize under a different entity demonstrates that they care about themselves more than they do American workers.

  2. Jamie H

    04/07/2015 at 4:53 PM

    I don’t understand in this article why Frank Jacobs is complaining about SM Wilson “putting them through the wringer” for Minority participation on IKEA like its a problem! Then says he could do the convenient job with 100% minorities. Then he further confuses the reader by stating that he has several unemployed minorities ready to work… This guys seems rather emotional and seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth. In this whole process he’s attacking a minority company? Curious why they don’t focus their energy on becoming more competitive instead of insulting their clients by putting Shame on you pickets in their front yard for trying to help black people. How much did these 3 contracts come to? Is it worth it? Who knows? But SM Wilson is a big contractor that I’m sure spends plenty of money with Local 1 and I’m sure they cant be too happy right now… I agree with David S Local 1 cares about Local 1. Good for you SM Wilson! Someone has to help our city progress and our communities your company is a true trailblazer in diversity.

  3. Steven A

    04/08/2015 at 8:39 AM

    Frank Jacobs should perhaps re-read his quotes and try to make sense of them himself. His and Local 1’s attempts to continually bully local trades and general contractors around town are laughable and are a reminder of the way unions used to be. It’s not 1950 anymore Frank. Maybe focusing your efforts on something constructive, no pun intended, and perhaps hiring a PR person would be in your and Local 1’s best interests.

    As for the contractors, minority-based or otherwise, who are striving to make this community a better place to live and a better place to work, kudos to you. Keep up the good work as the public is watching.