NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

August 15, 2011

Candidates refuse union endorsement

NEWBURYPORT — City councilors running for re-election this fall are warning Massachusetts AFL-CIO officials they will not accept union endorsements in response to months of anti-Anna Jaques Hospital protests by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103.

Councilors Tom Jones, Bob Cronin and Brian Derrivan made the intentions of the entire council clear Thursday during a meeting of the AFL-CIO's Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council in Lowell when they presented labor council president Paul Georges with a letter.

Jones, who is a member of a carpenters union, said yesterday it was obvious to him and other councilors that the IBEW Local 103's tactics went beyond a labor dispute over hiring practices and has become a test of wills between the city and the union.

Jones also said it was hard for him and others on the council to empathize for unions in general because of the negative impact of IBEW Local 103.

"It (IBEW Local 103) runs against what organized labor should be doing," Jones said.

The Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council serves as an advocacy group for union members in dozens of North Shore and Metro Boston area communities, including Newburyport, Methuen, Lawrence, Burlington, Concord and Amesbury. According to its website, among the labor council's goals is to mobilize against anti-union employers, work on community issues, recruit and support candidates who champion working families, and organize grassroots political action to push for adoption of worker-friendly initiatives and policies on a national, state and local level.

For months, members of IBEW Local 103 have been protesting the Highland Avenue hospital's decision to hire nonunion electrical workers as part of its roughly $15 million renovation project. What started out as union members standing behind banners directing people to a website that highlights malpractice payments made by hospital doctors has expanded to include flyovers by a rented plane and the display of a 9-foot-tall inflatable rat balloon in the middle of Market Square.

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