Local 17U Members Rally in Advance of Lollapalooza

Members of Local 17U demonstrated in late July on the edge of Chicago’s Grant Park, protesting the use of nonunion temp workers in running the annual music festival, Lollapalooza.

The group, which swelled to as large as 50 people at some points during the week-long protest, work primarily in setting up and tearing down trade shows and other large-scale events.


Unlike many USW locals, Local 17U, which joined the USW as a part of the 1985 merger with the Upholsterers union, has a hiring hall and functions similarly to the building trades. They have about 180 card carrying members, but when work is plentiful, their ranks swell to as many as 350.

Because their work is often on short, discreet jobs, Local 17U members rely on big events like Lollapalooza. This job, which instead went minimum wage workers brought in from outside the Chicago area, would have employed 25 members for at least several weeks, said Local Union President Anthony DeGrado.

The protest outside Lollapalooza was directed primarily at Arena Americas, the North American division of an international equipment rental agency, whose Wisconsin office was responsible for staffing the event.

“I think we got their attention,” said DeGrado. “These guys are from out of state. If they’re coming here, they need to do the right thing.”

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