NEWBURYPORT — For months now, electrical union workers carrying signs and banners highly critical of Anna Jaques Hospital have become a familiar sight along many of the city's main roads.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 has been protesting the Highland Avenue hospital's decision to hire nonunion electrical workers from MEC Electrical Contractors Inc. of Chelmsford for its $15 million expansion project.
The union's tactics, which include using a small plane and giant inflatable rat to spread its message and plastering car dashboards with negative fliers, are not sitting well with one local businessman.
Word late last month that IBEW Local 103 would continue its protests for another year proved to be too much for Michael Roy, co-owner of Haley's Ice Cream at the Route 1 traffic circle and former owner of Michael's Harborside on the waterfront.
Roy said over the weekend that he had ordered signs supporting Anna Jaques Hospital and will soon be protesting the protesters. He is hoping others will join him in holding signs that read "I support Anna Jaques Hospital."
"I don't want to be a rabble-rouser and create a big problem, but I do want to make a statement," said Roy, an incorporator for the hospital.
Months before the May decision to hire nonunion electrical workers, IBEW Local 103 workers were protesting the hospital's decision to even consider hiring a company other than a union shop. The union created a website exposing the hospital and 24 doctors in particular who have made malpractice payments during their careers.
Since May, IBEW 103 has stepped up its campaign, unveiling a massive inflatable rat that towers over protesters. And on Sundays since May, a small plane has been flying over the city with a banner directing people to the union's website. The plane was even seen by many buzzing around Newburyport High School during graduation exercises, infuriating many people.