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Pro Fab in Crown Point seeks injunction against labor union

Updated: November 13, 2013 6:08AM



A Crown Point company claims in a federal lawsuit that Local 20 Sheet Metal Workers International Association is illegally blocking the sale of the company’s product.

The company, Pro Fab Sheet Metal Inc., is asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to stop the union’s practices. A representative with Local 20 could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, an official with Local 20, Jeff Hamilton, on Oct. 2 told the company’s vice president, Ibrahim Zakhem, that he was taking away the stickers Pro Fab uses to identify that its products — duct work and other metal fittings used in construction projects — are made by union members. The labels are needed by other companies that have agreements in place with their unions to buy only union-made goods.

The lawsuit claims Hamilton never gave Zakhem a reason why he was taking the labels.

Pro Fab soon started receiving calls from its clients who said they had been told by Local 20 that Pro Fab was no longer a union shop.

According to the suit, Zakhem was told two days later by a Local 20 representative from Indianapolis that Pro Fab was behind in paying union benefits. The representative, however, said the union had not audited accounts and did not know how much Pro Fab owed, the suit says.

Pro Fab claims these steps violated the contract the company has with Local 20, which went into effect in March 2012 and remains valid through June 2017. The contract calls for the union to go through a grievance process over any issues it has with the company, which it has not done in this case. The suit also says Pro Fab has not violated the contract in any way that would give cause for a grievance.

Pro Fab says it was able to finish one delivery on Oct. 4 to one of its clients, Arctic Engineering, after its union agreed to let Arctic accept Pro Fab’s products. However, the company stands to lose money on other orders and won’t be able to pay its operating costs, which average $20,000 a day.

“The damage to plaintiff’s reputation and goodwill at being labeled a nonunion shop or a shop without union labels will have a catastrophic impact on Pro Fab’s operations that will result in Pro Fab ceasing operations,” the suit says.

The company is seeking damages from Local 20 and for a court order to have Local 20 give the union labels back.



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