Navy Pier Sues to Stop Union Members From Blocking Roads

CHICAGO (CN) – The company that manages Chicago’s Navy Pier asked an Illinois judge Wednesday for a temporary restraining order to prevent picketing union members from physically blocking the streets leading to the tourism landmark.

Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the shore of Lake Michigan that is home to more than 50 acres of parks, stores, restaurants and more. With more than 9 million visitors each year, it is one of Chicago’s top tourism attractions.

Navy Pier Inc. sued International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 727 in Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday, a week after the union sued NPI over its new security vendor.

John T. Coli Jr. and John T. Coli Sr., the union’s president and treasurer, respectively, are also named as defendants in NPI’s lawsuit.

According to the complaint, for the past week, Local 727 members have been standing in the street blocking delivery trucks, buses and other vehicles from accessing Navy Pier.

NPI says union members are acting under the guise of a labor dispute with a new contractor that provides security services for Navy Pier.

“When a delivery truck attempts to turn on Grand Avenue to access the Pier, Local 727 members literally stand in the street, in front of the truck, forcing it to stop. They then surround the cab and harangue and coerce the driver in an attempt to stop the driver from coming into Navy Pier,” the lawsuit states.

In addition to standing in front of traffic, picketers also park their personal vehicles in crosswalks and non-parking lanes to block incoming traffic, according to the complaint.

NPI says the union members are creating unsafe conditions for vehicle traffic and pedestrians and are jeopardizing the operation of the Navy Pier.

In last week’s lawsuit, Local 727 alleged that NPI wrongfully hired Allied Universal as its security provider and will not accept union members’ employment applications.

But NPI claims union members have resorted to “unlawful intimidation” of Navy Pier visitors instead of utilizing the process to apply to work for Allied.

“Local 727 represents employees of the company that previously provided security services at Navy Pier,” Wednesday’s complaint states. “Under terms of [a request for proposal], Allied must employ qualified former full-time employees represented by Local 727 if they pass Allied’s drug and background check process.”

NPI made clear in its lawsuit that it is not trying to prevent union members from engaging in picketing, but wants to stop them from physically blocking the streets leading into Navy Pier.

The company is represented by William Pokorny, Sally Scott and Michael Warner Jr. with Franczek Radelet in Chicago.

Navy Pier, “one of the top-visited leisure and cultural destinations in the world,” has more than 80 tenants that are being harmed by the union members’ activities, according to NPI’s lawsuit.

“Local 727’s efforts to block access to the Pier are unlawful and unjustified and should be immediately enjoined, prior to the start of the Memorial Day weekend and the kickoff to the summer tourist season,” the complaint states.

In a phone call Thursday afternoon, Will Petty, creative director of Local 727, says Navy Pier’s allegations are “absolutely untrue.”

“We are not blocking any intersections, stopping traffic or breaking any laws,” he says.

The picketing has not created unsafe conditions and at no point has Local 727 received any citations from Chicago police during the eight consecutive days union members were picketing, Petty says.

Petty said Navy Pier’s lawsuit is a “desperate attempt by managers to not only to deny workers to collective bargain but deny the ability for anyone to stand up for these workers.”

A hearing is schedule Friday morning for the temporary restraining order. Petty says Local 727 will ask the judge to deny the request and will continue to picket.

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