Max on Max Violence 

State rep tangles with union at picket

A carpenters’ union picket outside the Idaho Statehouse Wednesday turned ugly as lawmakers strolled through Capitol Park en route to lunch.

click to enlarge Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters picket line outside Idaho State Capitol. - NATHANIEL HOFFMAN
  • Nathaniel Hoffman
  • Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters picket line outside Idaho State Capitol.

According to two witness statements provided to Boise police, Rep. Max Black, a Boise Republican, approached one of the organizers to ask about the picketers. After a terse conversation, Black allegedly shoved Max Murphy, a local representative of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

Reached at home Wednesday evening, Black, a nine-term legislator, told BW that, to his knowledge, he did not shove Murphy.

“I don’t think that either one of us ever touched each other,” Black said. “Apparently this guy is trying to make an issue about it.”

The Carpenters have picketed outside construction projects in the Boise area for several years now, including protesting several subcontractors working on the State Capitol restoration. Wednesday’s pickets targeted Nampa-based Commercial Constructors Inc., a drywall subcontractor working on the Capitol.

“CCI does not pay area standard wages and does not pay health insurance,” Murphy told BW early Wednesday, prior to his run-in with Black.

The union targeted CCI at its Nampa headquarters last year. According to a February 2008 Idaho Press-Tribune article picketers followed owner Steve Packard around to protest his business practices.

Packard did not immediately return calls to Boise Weekly today.

According to police statements Murphy provided to BW, at about 11:40 am, Black peeled off from a larger group of legislators to ask him how much he was being paid to picket.

Murphy told him he was getting union wages to lead the protest, and Black wanted to know how much the other picketers were paid. Murphy told him $12.50 an hour, twice the state minimum wage (Idaho minimum wage is actually $7.25 now).

“He then angrily replied, ‘that’s bullshit.’ I asked what’s bullshit that we pay twice the state minimum wage or that we are protesting workers’ exploitation. He said ‘I think workers should be exploited.’”

Murphy got loud, Black cursed at him and, according to Murphy’s statement and to the statements of two other union picketers, Black then shoved Murphy and walked away.

Boise police requested a statement from Black and he declined to say more about the incident other than to deny that he laid hands on Murphy.

The misdemeanor battery investigation continued Thursday and Boise Police Department Spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said the report would be forwarded to the City Attorneys Office to determine if charges will be filed.

Eric Franklin, communications director for the union, which organizes carpenters in five states, said the point of the demonstrations is to educate the public about the lack of wage and benefit standards in Idaho.

“There has to be a wage paid to those workers that will sustain a family, which will sustain communities,” Franklin said.

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