Well, I guess I’ve seen it all now. Without any notice or any previous contact with our church, the local carpenters’ union has decided to wage a public protest in front of our church.

It began Friday and continued through this weekend with a huge 4 foot by 20 foot banner that says:  SHAME ON NORTH COAST CHURCH (with the words “Labor Dispute” on the outside edges of the sign).

Apparently the union has an ongoing dispute with one of the companies that our general contractor has hired in the construction of our new campus. So they’ve decided to strong arm us. I say apparently because despite protesting daily with a huge sign declaring, “Shame on North Coast,” they’ve yet to even try to contact with anyone at the church.

Two more things to note:

[list type=”ul” style=”5″]We’ve been told this is their method of operation and they will be standing in front of the church with their huge sign every day (weekends included) until our project is completed sometime next year – or, I suppose, until we do whatever it is they want us to do.^We are using lots of other union contractors on the job.[/list]

So how should we respond? As I see it, we have four primary options.

[list type=”ol” style=”2″]Give In and Remove The Company The Union Has A Problem With.
That doesn’t seem like an option to me. But it obviously does to the union. All we have to do is fire the subcontractor they don’t like and hire them to do the dry walling (by the way, at an additional cost of about $180,000). Now that would be fun to explain to the folks who have sacrificially donated to this project. “Thanks for your money; and by the way, we’ve used it to hire the highest bidders in a effort to stimulate the economy.”^Ignore Them.
I don’t think many people will have much sympathy for the protesters. In this economy everyone is trying to save money just to survive. Few expect or want a church to pay top dollar with donated funds for a construction project (and that’s what most people will think this is about – and what it’s about). So why not rake in a little free publicity and the sympathy that comes from being the victim of some strong-armed tactics by the carpenters’ union?^Get Our Own Sign.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to get our own matching sign that said: “SHAME ON THE CARPENTER’S UNION FOR STRONG-ARMING A CHURCH”? Or maybe we could ask, “Why does the carpenters’ union hire non-English speaking, non-union members to hold their signs?” Or maybe, “We saved $180,000 ticking these guys off!” That might get a little notice in the local press – giving us a chance to state our case.^Seek To Remove All Union Carpenters From Our Project.
Frankly, I have no idea if this would even be possible. Contracts have been signed. But if the union leadership wants to strong-arm us into submission – I’m not sure why we want to hire their members – or trust them to do a good job on the project.[/list]

So, okay, what would you do?

What would Jesus do?


  1. CGworship on March 9, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I was in retail grocery management for 25 years and I’ve seen my share of picketers, rallies, and loading dock tension. It is hard to ignore these folks when they are pretty much “in your face” with a cause or complaint that you don’t see eye to eye on. That said, hard or not, “turning the other cheek” always worked best for me – even in my pre-Christian earlier years. I don’t know if that is the same thing as ignoring them, but it sure seems to make them disappear from conscious and subconscious tensions (brain debate) after a few passing’s.

    The press loves these guys and if there is a spin to be made, it won’t be in favor of “The Big Guys” – in this case a mega-church in “cahoots” with Big Business (developers).

  2. John Tyner on March 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    It seems to me that you can’t responsibly move forward until you know what the dispute is about. I think the protestors should have come to you (the church) first before resorting to protesting, but it appears that that ship has sailed. Given that, I think the church has a responsibility to find out what the dispute is about.

    The church, and Christians, in general, I think have a responsibility help the poor and weak. To ignore the protestors entirely, is to shirk that responsibility. I’m not suggesting that you blindly cave in to their demands, but the problem needs to be understood before a course of action is chosen.

  3. Casey Graham on March 9, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Hey Larry! First, thanks for letting me, Brett, and Mavity pick your brain last week. That was awesome. In this situation I would just ignore them. You aren’t doing anything wrong. You guys are just trying to be great managers of the money God has given you for a project. It might be great to have some of your groups go by and give them lunch every now and again. That would be a different way to treat them.

  4. kimmartinezstayingfocused on March 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve noticed that we seem to avoid ‘conflict’ even when it is the most loving response. Setting up a meeting with the union leaders and the leader of the company in question and trying to resolve the situation seems to be the best response, even if it is the most painful. Helping people move through their issues and find a reasonable solution is the most loving response where all are concerned – and you might be saving many people’s jobs as well. If they are picketing your site, they will be picketing other sites around the city where this company is working.

  5. Gregg Stutts on March 13, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Not sure what I’d do. I’m pretty sure I’d be angry though. Anyway, why not get some people in the church to serve them a nice lunch? Even set up some tables and chairs so they’ll have a place to sit down while they eat. It’s probably hard to protest against people who are feeding you. Just a thought.

  6. Tom and Cara on March 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I like the lunch idea! Nothing like meeting an attack with kindness. Maybe we find out the needs (if any) of the picket sign holders and have some GG’s provide services for them as part of their service projects. Maybe they might have to actually put some Union Members on that picket line and we can start to get to the root of the problem via the same means.

  7. Nancy on March 23, 2009 at 10:06 am

    You can’t make all people happy all of the time. Do what is best for your church & your congregation. Protestors will come and go throughout the church’s entire life span, and these people clearly do not have the best interest of the big picture at heart. I think they seek a sort of “fame” over what is best for the people. Think of how many projects in the community this sum of money could be used for! You’re doing right by not automatically caving to their selfish desires.

  8. Craig on March 25, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Larry: I also like the lunch idea; that should be a definite. I also like the sign idea but as we saw with the Prop. 8 “debate”, the secular liberal media is biased against churches. I’m not convinced they would present the church’s side favorably. I also don’t see any benefit in the church meddling in union business. It’s one thing to help the underpaid, weak, and hopeless; it’s another thing to try to reason with union thugs. Sorry for the stereotype but that’s what they are. I’ve witnessed their tactics and discussions first hand in my union. Unions have been losing supporters for decades now and they are just trying to get their hands on every little job they can. I don’t blame them for this but when they don’t get their way, rather than sit down and talk, they use these tactics. What I do know is that God would be glorified if some folks from the church share a lunch and the gospel message with these protesters. God is using this for His perfect purpose and we should stand up to this trial and bring Him glory.

  9. Julie on March 29, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Hi, I like the lunch idea too. Besides all the obvious of meeting with the union leaders etc. I think you should set up a podium with a mike and get people on rotation to either preach the gospel, read the bible, sing worship etc, bring them water and snacks. Ask your congregation to volunteer, but the main thing is to love them, not get angry and give the media absolutely nothing to criticize. maybe some will get saved in the process.

  10. LINDA on March 30, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I vote for the sign “We saved 180,000 ticking these guys off!” My second option….ignore them. See you on Easter Sunday. (Should I bring a sign?)

  11. Cristy on May 13, 2009 at 3:16 am

    WWJD? Speak the truth in love and be about His Father’s business.

    What should the church do? Make sure those holding the signs have heard the Gospel, and have been welcomed in His name. Bring them drinks and light meals, treat them with kindness, agree to disagree (at least from your side) and continue your building.

    But if just one man (not the union as a whole) comes to a saving knowledge of Christ, then the inconvenience will have been well worth it.

    God’s peace.

  12. Dan on July 30, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Hi Larry,
    So what ever became of the protestors? Did they go away or am I just not seeing them anymore?

    I heard NCC did just as some suggested in this blog and fed the people holding the banners. With food, water, coffee, and encouraging words of hope. If that’s the case, it’s just one more reason I love this church.

    What a great opportunity to live what we read in the word. God knows my natural instint would not to be kind, loving and caring. Only by his Spirit in me does any good come out of me. Amen?

    Also, I really appreciate the leadership team that is being so careful in how we spend the money we give to do Gods work. We’ll keep praying for y’all.

  13. WILLIAM MILAM on October 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Get some volunteers and provide coffee and donuts everyday. Then…while listening to them…tell them your story…no not the story why you are building a new campus. Tell about the ONE for WHOM you are building the campus…JESUS.

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