To the editor:

I wholeheartedly commend the Citizens Supporting Anna Jaques Hospital, and I applaud the efforts to counteract the misrepresentations being implied by the IBEW 103 protesters. The protesters are intentionally perpetuating the impression that Anna Jaques Hospital and/or the electrical workers hired for the expansion neither provide nor value health care coverage for their employees.

Suzanne Cap submitted an eloquent and direct editorial to The Daily News, including the following information:

"Anna Jaques Hospital takes great care in verifying that all contractors doing business with the hospital in any capacity are legitimate, qualified, ethical, law-abiding businesses. In the case of MEC Electrical Contractors Inc., this contractor is a licensed business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is required by law to offer health care insurance to its employees. MEC's employees receive their insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield and contribute 30 percent of their premium, with their employer paying 70 percent."

Anna Jaques Hospital offers their employees similar contributory health care plans. Indeed, employer-provided health care plans usually include some requirement for employee contribution. If IBEW 103 members get 100 percent employer-funded health coverage, there is no incentive on their part to keep rapidly burgeoning health care costs in check. Hiring electrical contractors who work for their living, contribute to their own health care coverage, and don't get paid to stand around on street corners makes a lot of sense to me.

Unions are not all bad and served a very important purpose in our history. However, fairness and safety are much different than entitlement and waste. If I were an IBEW 103 member, I would be incensed that my dues were being spent to fund this kind of protest, and would much prefer the money going into my own pocket.

I understand the desire to rally on Oct. 2 to protest the IBEW 103's tactics. Most of us are sick and tired of their presence, their misrepresentations and their bullying tactics. However, I question if it might be better to just ignore them.

Hopefully, other companies that are putting out bids for electrical work will see what IBEW 103 is doing here in Newburyport, and will think long and hard about whether they want to award contracts to people who operate in this manner. And I'll bet that without the expenditures on protests like the one against Anna Jaques, any bid IBEW 103 makes could be lower, with the electrical workers themselves making more.

Finally, a question to ponder: If IBEW 103 had been awarded the Anna Jaques Hospital contract, would they be protesting? I suspect not.

Gay Brown


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