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Labor Ads to Ridgedale Shopping Center Customers: "Watch Out" for Hazards

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In time for the holidays, labor organizers released a digital campaign today targeting consumers inside the Ridgedale Shopping Center, which is undergoing renovation. A new site is called "Shop at Your Own Risk" and mobile ads are intended to scare the public away.

The laborers picketed Ridgedale in July, claiming that both union and nonunion contractors -- and by extension, storefronts and the mall's owners -- had let safety violations go unchecked. For proof, the local branch of the Laborers' International Union of North America sent us photographs of an open escalator shaft and electrical box.

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Laborers picketing union and nonunion contractors at Ridgedale Shopping Center

A couple weeks later, the organizers began handing out leaflets inside the mall, but security called the police and banned the men from the property. In response, they supposedly filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the mall's owners -- Chicago-based General Growth Properties -- had infringed on their rights.

Kevin Pranis, a local organizer with Laborers' International Union of North America, says he's seen members of the Salvation Army hand out fliers there without trouble. "There's clearly a double standard in who's allowed free speech in this mall and who's not," he tells us.

But it doesn't end there. On Monday, laborers and organizers returned to the mall again -- this time to hand out a letter written by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council to store managers. It notes that "a surprise MnOSHA inspection" found "six serious citations," including the failure of some workers to wear proper eyeglasses and hard hats.

Again, police escorted the laborers off the property and even cited one electrician for trespassing. A mall spokesman did not return our request for comment, but there's plenty of time to think it over: The organizers say they will continue their digital campaign through the year if the violations aren't fixed sooner.

They contend that this battle isn't simply about wages and point to a fire that broke out two days before Thanksgiving on the roof of a Macy's construction area.

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