Labor, Protest — March 28, 2013 at 6:50 am

Borgess Health Park in Battle Creek being built mostly by non-union workers without health insurance coverage


Knee-deep in irony

A new health care facility being built in Battle Creek is being fiercely criticized for hiring mostly out-of-town, non-union workers. Borgess Health Park, a 65,000 square foot facility which broke ground late last year, has hired 21 contractors for the nearly $27 million construction project. However, of those, only two of the 21 contractors are local and only one of the two is unionized.

In a true bit of bitter irony, very few of the construction workers who will build the facility have health insurance coverage themselves meaning that they probably would never be able to afford the services Borgess will provide when construction is completed in 2014. From our friends at Progress Michigan:

Borgess chose to hire mostly nonunion, out-of-town contractors for the $26 million project. Those dollars could have stayed in the local community and supported local businesses. Instead, only two of the contractors hired by Borgess were local, and just one uses union labor.

To add insult to possible injury, few of the contractors hired for the project provide health care for their workers. So if any of these unskilled, untrained workers got hurt on the job, they couldn’t even afford the cost of care at Borgess’ shiny new ambulatory care facility.div>

Arlandar Washington with the Michigan Laborers had this to say:

Local union contractors are the right call for big projects like this one because they use good quality labor, and pay a fair day’s wage for a fair days work. We’re happy to welcome Borgess to Battle Creek. But if they want to build in this community, they should hire local contractors and support local businesses, who they’re counting on to choose their facility when they need care.

If our union members or their families get sick and choose Borgess, they have good health insurance that pays for their care. The irony is that nearly every contractor working on this project doesn’t provide insurance, so their workers wouldn’t even be able to afford care at this facility.

Yesterday, local construction workers picketed outside of the construction site to draw attention to the situation. Here is video of the press conference they held during the protest:

In additional ironic twist, Borgess is part of the Ascension Health Network, a “Catholic health ministry” with a Mission Statement that says:

Rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. Our Catholic health ministry is dedicated to spiritually centered, holistic care, which sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities. We are advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words.

Borgess Health could have made a major stride toward improving the health of the Battle Creek community by hiring local workers represented by unions that ensure they have adequate health insurance coverage. It breaks my heart to see even a Catholic health group speeding our descent to the bottom for Michigan workers by choosing cheap, out-of-town, non-unionized labor to save a few bucks.

Actions and words. Borgess and Ascension have the words right. Now it’s time for them to follow up with actions that show that their words are more than just words.

[CC Image credit: SaMi | Wikimedia Commons]