If you've driven past Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, The Children's Hospital or St. Anthony Hospital in the past few months, you might have wondered why there are people outside with banners shaming these health institutions.
An alleged labor dispute is the reason behind banners that read “Shame On (Name of Institution),” but the institutions on the banners aren't necessarily the actual target.
The sign holders are part of a campaign organized by the Central South Carpenters Regional Council. The council is an affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, which represents more than 500,000 craftsmen and women, according to its website.
Various news outlets across the nation have reported similar protests in Colorado, California, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Tennessee. These reports have found similar trends — sign holders paid $10 an hour to hold the strongly worded banners.
On the corner of Meridian Avenue and W Memorial Road, protesters can regularly be seen holding a sign that reads “SHAME ON Mercy Health Systems.” Sign holders with similar banners also have demonstrated outside St. Anthony Hospital and The Children's Hospital.
Not the target
At Mercy, they pass out a flier that reads “Shame on Mercy Health Systems for desecration of the American way of life.” The flier features a rat, chewing on an American flag and explains that “a rat is a contractor that does not pay all of its employees on all projects area standard wages, including providing or making payments for family health care and/or pension benefits.”
Mercy Hospital isn't the actual target of the “Shame On” campaign. Instead, the union is upset with a subcontractor hired by a general contractor that Mercy hired.
In December, Lester Wiedman, a local carpenters union representative, wrote a letter to Lynn Britton, the Mercy president and CEO, based in Missouri.
In the letter, Wiedman writes that the carpenters union has learned that Green Country Interiors, an Oklahoma metal stud framing and drywall installation company, is bidding or performing work for one of Mercy's projects.
Wiedman states in the letter that the union is in a “labor dispute” with Green Country Interiors because the company “does not pay area standards wages to all their employees, including providing or fully paying for family health care.”
Wiedman warns in the letter that, if Mercy does not change its decision to use Green Country Interiors, the union will launch its campaign against the health care company.
“That campaign will include highly visible lawful banner displays and distribution of handbills at the job site and premises of property owners, developers, general contractors, and other firms involved with projects involving a non-area standard contractor. We certainly prefer to work cooperatively with all involved parties but cannot sit idly by while these entities condone and/or support the non-area standards contractor,” Wiedman writes.
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With Mercy, it's a little bit different because you have a faith-based organization that is being targeted, and people respond in a lot of different ways because of that. There are some people who are really offended that they would stand in front of the cross on the corner of Mercy's property and have their sign.”