Perhaps one of the highlights of my day is ditching my office and hitting the road in search of a good cup of coffee—or in my case coffee with lots of milk, chocolate, and sugar. I’m of course talking about my medium mochas from Caribou Coffee. Though, it should be noted I’ve decided to become a bit picky and have started ordering, bear with me now, a Medium Less-Chocolate, Stirred Mocha.
I die a little inside ordering a coffee with that many requirements, but someday my inner-yuppie will take over. Granted, that’s a slippery slope as if I don’t stop soon I’ll be shopping the organic aisles and using words like “fair-trade” and “right-on.”
Anyway, before I get too far into a discussion about hippies let me tell you a tale of a recent coffee excursion, or rather a few coffee excursions that have led to an interesting discovery.
A coworker, Kimberly, and I decided to grab a cup at the local Caribou Coffee off Olson Memorial and Revere Lane. On the corner of such we discovered some protesters holding up a PVC and vinyl sign with the words: SHAME ON DR. BRENT CATALDO printed on the front in big bold letters. (See picture below)
Confused, Kimberly and I looked around the parking lot to try and figure out who exactly they were protesting. At first we laughed because it seemed like the Dr. they were supposedly protesting wasn’t even in the same locale. What we later discovered is that Dr. Cataldo’s new office was located in the strip of businesses behind Caribou and adjacent to the Rainbow Foods.
Sometimes the obvious is the hardest thing to see.
Research at work: Gay Wrestlers and Magicians
Kimberly and I often do some strange research at work. Granted I’m probably divulging information that could be taken improperly by my employer here, but ah well. The most recent research aside from Dr. Cataldo was searching the country to try and locate a gay wrestler that used to live in Kimberly’s basement. Update: We found the gay wrestler, Sweet Stevie, his website is here.
At any rate, we were able to discover Dr. Cataldo’s prior office location and get some information from classmates.com and his business’ website. (Which you can visit here)
You can also discover a Facebook page for a Brent Cataldo that looks nothing like our Dr. Cataldo in question. Don’t be fooled, the guy on Facebook looks like he’s a magician with pet pigeons in his back yard. If you happen to be that particular Brent, please leave a comment and let me know what you do for a living, and if you’re not doing magic, why not?
The (everyday) trip to Caribou
Eventually work took over and the curiosity died down. The next day I was off again to get coffee, this time all by my lonesome. I drove by the same group of protesters, and my interest was piqued again. I stopped at Caribou and started chatting with Brit (the best-damn-ever-Caribou-coffee-barista, ever!) about the protesters. She informed me they had been hanging around out there for some time. A debate amongst employees broke out about the exact time frame, somewhere between a month and three months. Either way, it had been going on for a while.
How could I have not noticed this? I mean really, I go there like every day…My only thought is that they may have been protesting their prior location first, and have moved over to the new location? Not sure, but I digress.
Armed with a mission and the best-damn mocha in the metro
I told Brit that I was going to head over to the Arby’s climb the little hill and go talk to the protesters. Armed with a mission and the best damn mocha in the metro I headed over. Smiling broadly as I trudged around the wet grass in my doc martins and slacks I walked up to the protesters and casually asked one simple question, “What’s the deal here, guys?”
Protester 1, the left-most sign holder turned and told me that they weren’t allowed to say anything. Protester 3, the right-most sign holder turned and told me that they were only allowed to give out pamphlets. He reached into a plastic bag and pulled out a strange looking yellow piece of paper and handed it too me. I first noted that there was a picture of a rat, in a house, chewing the American flag (below).
Tacky, I thought to myself. Then again, protest material is often pretty alarmist and weird.
Digging for answers
I started probing Protester 1 some more (it should be noted Protester 2, the middle guy, said nothing the entire time, nor acknowledged I was really around). I was told again that they weren’t allowed to say anything, and each question kept getting the same response. I asked why they weren’t allowed to talk about it. Protester 1 simply replied something about comments being held libelous.
As he was explaining the libel issue to me, Protester 3 became very uncomfortable and reminded him not to say anything. “So you can’t say anything about not saying anything, even” I asked with a grin on my face. He nodded making sure not to attract the attention of Protester 3, who I can only guess was in charge of this issue.
I left the protest with a lot of questions and a look of confusion on my face. I returned to the office and showed the flier to Kimberly who was equally confused. Not entirely satisfied, I let it go. After all, I do have a job to do.
Alright, still with me? It gets more interesting, I promise.
Thursday, May 8, 2008: The protest saga continues with more confusion
Fast forward to Thursday and I’m having the near-disaster morning. Reds are everywhere on my bigbrother monitor screen and I’m putting out fires (TRANSLATION: things broke, red light blink, I fix they). I will say one thing, proactive IT management is paramount to a successful overall IT operation. If I hadn’t got the monitoring notes this morning they would have been crashing vital services such as domain authentication, email, and intranet by the afternoon (Sorry for the geek-moment).
What says fix a stressful morning like a trip out to Caribou with another coworker, Shanizzle, the queen of corporate communications. I pointed out the protesters as we drove by and we snapped a picture (shown prior) with Shannon’s expert cellphone photo skills.
I make my way up to the counter when I realize that Protester 1 is standing next to me. Thankfully it was probably obvious to everyone as he was wearing layers of clothes and had protest-like buttons on his hat and coat. I knew Brit would want the story, but I was nervous about the protester standing next to me. I made an awkward nonchalant finger point to my left, Brit picked right up on it.
I think both of us were equally confused. From the flier here is what I’m deducing:
Dr. Brent Cataldo, DDS hired Karkela Construction to perform the construction of their new facility in Plymouth. As part of the construction process Karkela subcontracted to Friedges Drywall for that portion of the construction. According to the flier, put out by the North central States Regional Council of Carpenters, Friedges Drywall is a “substandard wage employer” who states “in our opinion the community ends up paying the tab for employee health care and low wages tend to lower general community standards, thereby encouraging crime and other social ills.”
Further, the flier encourages readers to call Dr. Brent Cataldo and urge him to do all he can to change the situation.
I attempted to contact the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters but was dropped into someone’s voicemail. The name I couldn’t clearly make out but it sounded like Phil Assbig.
Dr. Cataldo’s Office Responds
I decided to give Dr. Brent a call myself to get his side of the story. I dialed his office and spoke with a very friendly receptionist. She had some interesting insight that startled me a bit. First off, she told me that they did in fact hire a company who held a bidding process for drywall contractors (and other contractors alike) bids came in and the cheapest was selected. According to her the Friedges Drywall (New Market, MN) is a non-union shop.
This didn’t surprise me. Often times the cheaper contractor is picked as long as they can safely use a non-union shop. In this case, safely may be a fluid term.
She also said something that really surprised me; they were done building. That’s right, the protesters were protesting a construction project that has already been completed and is in active service. At one of our facility construction projects at work we had a mason union protesting a building. They were only there for the pouring of the foundation, then they left to protest a McDonalds or something…
Getting weirder, What’s the deal with these guys?
Dr. Cataldo’s receptionist told me North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters had contacted his office. They plan to protest for two years.
Yes, that is not a typo. Two years, 730 days. Considering the drywall contractor was probably in the building for a short period of time and the building is now completed…They’ve got a while to go. At least over a year.
This all begs three questions for me.
1. Is this protest fair? Technically, Dr. Cataldo hired a construction company to do work on his building and that company made the labor choices. So Cataldo is hardly indirectly responsible and there is barely any mention of the construction company, Karkela Construction. Only do you find this out if you walk up to the protesters and hassle them for more information.
This is my own personal opinion, but I don’t think it is in fact fair. Its not Cataldo’s responsibility to choose subcontracters based on anything besides cost, especially when they are an indirect customer. Right now these protesters are trying to hurt Dr. Cataldo’s business based on decisions he didn’t make. Granted there may be another side of this story and it will involve getting a hold of the organization that is protesting but its my estimation that the protest is a little too biased.
2. Will they stay out there? We’re all passionate about something. I highly doubt that I would ever be passionate enough to stand outside and wave at traffic for two years. Really, to be honest I don’t think I could do that for more than two hours. If you ever see a guy sleeping with a sign taped to his back, you’ll know that it is me.
3. I’m also really curious to know if the protesters are paid protesters that are actively involved with the project or not. I know that in many cases a union/organization/etc. will hire a group of protesters to actually do the deed for them. Its lazy, I know.
I’d like to solicit your feedback, loyal readers, tell me what you think about all of this.