Carpenters Union Says “Shame On Pastor Flynn”

Labor Dispute Involves Claims Against Helton Construction

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - by Dennis Norwood
Protesters at church in East Brainerd
Protesters at church in East Brainerd
- photo by Dennis Norwood

Members of the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council appear to be blaming a local pastor for what they say is “Desecration of the American Way of Life.”

A flier handed out by the union’s members at Christ United Methodist Church in East Brainerd depicts what looks to be a giant rat gnawing away at the American flag. The council members say that their dispute is not with Pastor Mark Flynn, but with the general contractor on the job, Helton Construction.

Pastor Flynn says he doesn’t know why they are using his name on their materials, which includes a large sign at the corner of East Brainerd Road and Morris Hill Road, the church’s location. “They were here back in April,” said the minister. “At that time the sign said ‘Shame on Helton Construction.’

According to Pastor Flynn, “Their dispute is actually with Helton and that’s where we’ve been referring people. Perhaps they feel like using my name will get them more publicity.”

He went on to say, “We hired Helton as the general contractor, and they are responsible for everything construction-related. I think it may have something to do with the union accusing the contractor of using non-union laborers.”

The carpenters who were manning the protest would not identify themselves, referring all questions to either the church or their union headquarters. A call to the union found the spokesman, Robert Helton (no relation to the contractor), unavailable. Mr. Helton is the director of special projects for the organization.

According to the union’s flier, Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council "objects to substandard employers like Helton Construction working in the community." In their opinion the community ends up paying the tab for employee health care and for taxes not being paid by undocumented workers, which the protesters say are present on the work-site.

According to the unnamed protesters, “There are no on-site apprentice opportunities to train new laborers. It is not just here in Chattanooga, it is the industry as a whole."

As the union members spoke, it was evident that work on the building addition was proceeding. Referencing other unions present on the site, the carpenters’ representatives said they could not speak to any claims the electricians or other laborers might have.

Reached by phone, Eddie Helton, owner of Helton Construction, said, “These folks claim my people are paid substandard wages and are not provided any health insurance. That is totally untrue. We do compensate our people very well and they all have health insurance provided by our company.” He continued, “Their claims are just not true.”

Speaking about the union’s use of Pastor Flynn’s name, Mr. Helton stated, “It’s a sad state when people post a sign saying that a pastor, a man of God, is responsible for what they are saying. The pastor is a good man and that is, he has no connection to the construction project. A building committee from the church chose us as the general contractor, and that’s who I deal with.”

Mr. Helton concluded, “Personally, I’d be afraid to stand out there with that kind of sign… what with the wrath of God and all.”

(Email Dennis Norwood at; Follow him on Twitter at DennisENorwood)

Church construction site
Church construction site
- Photo2 by Dennis Norwood

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