A line stretched down the street from Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab on Friday afternoon as allies of the local ice cream parlor turned out to offer their support for the business and score a free scoop.
Inside the shop, representatives from at least nine unions — including electricians, pipefitters, firefighters, nurses, iron workers, sheet-metal workers, cement masons, painters and insulators — aimed to raise awareness of their work as well as denounce an ongoing protest by a Camarillo-based carpenters union.
“We feel like he’s being attacked by a rogue union, and he’s a wonderful community person, and he deserves our support,” said Chuck Headington, training director for the San Luis Obispo County Electrical Workers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.
Members of Carpenters Local 150 have been posted across the street from the ice cream shop since October — though they were not protesting on Friday.
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They claim that the labor dispute was launched because nonunion carpenters are being used to construct interior improvements at Doc Burnstein’s second location at the Santa Maria Town Center mall.
However, the mall, not shop owner Greg Steinberger, is paying for the renovations.
A message left for the Carpenters Local 150 was not returned Friday. The union is affiliated with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which represents more than 65,000 union carpenters in five states. The regional council also did not return a call for comment Friday.
The Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council bought ice cream for the public from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday to raise awareness about what unions stand for and about their apprenticeship programs, said Executive Secretary-Treasurer Steven Weiner. The Trades Council represents 30 trade unions in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Weiner said the Trades Council budgeted about $2,500 for the event, but said that “if it goes over, we’ll take care of it.”
Steinberger said that in the first hour and a half, 325 scoops had been given away.
“Greg has been such a huge supporter of our community,” said Eileen Calandro of San Luis Obispo, who asked Steinberger several years ago to help during an annual Christmas fundraising party. “He didn’t know me at all, and he agreed to it even though he got nothing from it. He’s a great guy.”
At 2 p.m., some city officials appeared to show their support.
“When I first heard about this, I was at first angry and then frustrated,” Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara said of the carpenters union’s ongoing demonstration. “Our avenues to stop the situation are limited. The only way to make a statement was to exercise our own free speech rights and let everyone know what we think.”
Steinberger has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Carpenters Local 150 with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
His charge is one of several cases on hold pending resolution by the national board of the legal issues involving the practice known as bannering, said Mori Pam Rubin, Deputy Regional Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board’s Region 31 office in Los Angeles.
Bannering typically involves union members holding or displaying banners critical of a business. But rather than picketing in front of a business, bannering is usually done nearby — across East Branch Street in the case of Doc Burnstein’s.
The five-member national board has had three vacancies since January 2008, so some issues must wait until a three-member quorum can be reached. President Barack Obama’s three nominations to fill those vacancies have not yet been confirmed.
Cynthia Lambert can be reached at 781-7929. Stay updated on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.