The Public Square

Jen Tayabji on Local Use of Non-Union Labor


Hi, I'm Jen Tayabji and I'm the Executive Director of the Illinois Disciples Foundation, a peace and justice campus ministry and non-profit organization in Champaign.

If you've driven past Kirby and Neil in Champaign recently, you may have noticed a giant rat standing next to a construction site and wondered what was going on. A Hilton hotel and conference center is being built. The developers, Paul Tatman and Steve Horve of Illini Hospitality, are using non-union labor from out of town to build the facility. The building trades are picketing the construction site to call public attention to the unfriendly actions of the developers. The giant rat symbolizes the threat to our community from this effort to lower standards for workers. Every faith tradition recognizes the dignity of labor as something that all people of conscience should respect. It's been almost a hundred years since the forerunner of the National Council of Churches adopted the "Social Creed of the Churches," which called for a living wage for all workers and the resolution of industrial disputes through conciliation and arbitration. Jobs with union benefits, protections and working conditions support our community. The decision by the developers to use non-union labor undermines living standards for workers.

Putting our beliefs into practice, the Illinois Disciples Foundation joined the local Jobs with Justice coalition and the building trades in picketing the construction site. We hope to promote an amicable resolution of this dispute for the benefit of all concerned: labor, management and the community. We encourage the developers to meet with the local leadership of the Building and Construction Trades Unions and to negotiate in good faith towards a fair settlement of the dispute. We ask members of the public to add your voice of concern to encourage the developers to negotiate. To get involved, contact the Illinois Disciples Foundation at 352-8721 or visit us online at