Picketers Gather at St. Marys Cement to Voice Concerns of Job Safety

Workers and their supporters were picketing in Charlevoix County Monday in the name of job site safety.

Northern Michigan’s News Leader has been covering the concerns about safety at the $150 million St. Marys Cement expansion project for almost two weeks.

That’s when a crane tipped over.

Monday, picketers gathered at the entrance to St. Marys off U.S.-31 to voice their concerns about even more safety issues.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik have details from the picket line.

‘Honk for Workplace Safety’ was the message picketers had Monday in front of the St. Marys Cement plant.

Workers are thankful for their jobs, but just hoping to see safer conditions.

"We’re very fortunate no one’s gotten seriously, seriously injured," a worker on the site Jamie Pierce said. "I mean every one of us wants to go home at the end of the night. I’ve got a five-year-old. I want to go home."

Several contracted workers have told us there have been many close calls on the site.

"I never thought that I would be on a job site that a crane tipped over. There’s been dropped steel that could have killed people multiple times," another worker on site Todd Wilkinson said.

They’ve reached out to various groups like Northern Michigan Building Trades who helps place people on job sites.

After the crane tip, they decided to organize Monday’s protest.

"We can make this a safer job site for everyone because no one wants an empty seat at the dinner table. That’d be the worst thing," Northern Michigan Building Trades president Travis Eastman said. 

We reached out to St. Marys Cement who only released the following statement from the St. Marys Cement operations manager Randy Pryor:

"We respect the rights of Local Union No. 7-SM to gather peacefully and conduct an informational picket on Bells Bay road. For St. Marys Cement, our focus remains on providing a safe environment for our employees and for outside contractors to work together to complete their work and supplying our customers with a quality product." 

"I’m sure they don’t love us out here today, but, you know, we’re not the enemy. We are very happy that they’re here and they’ve chose to expand locally and put local people to work, but we just want a safe job site," Eastman said.

"Hopefully, the powers to be will think that maybe there’s something we can do to help the guys out," union steward for electricians Albert Knappheit said. "We can do the job. We can do it in a timely fashion, but let’s do it safely." 

Work did continue on site Monday.