By: Charlie Sprang
Trade Media Staff:
The Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council along with its union affiliates has initiated a job action against the Rothman Institute and will be protesting at the orthopedic care provider’s sites in South Jersey.
The protests are a result of Rothman’s decision to use non-union contractors at locations currently under construction, one at 243 Hurffville-Cross Keys Road in Washington Township and the other in Princeton.
Dan Cosner, president of the council and business manager for IBEW Local 351, explained the developer erected the buildings with union labor and the unions believed they had a commitment from Rothman to do the fit out as well.
Cosner said they had crews ready to start the fit out and had, on several occasions, attempted to negotiate costs that were workable for both Rothman and the unions, but the two sides could not get together. Rothman made the decision to finish the construction with non-union contractors, opting for cheaper, inferior labor while, at the same time, ignoring the loyalty of the union members who had selected Rothman for orthopedic care for years.
“Union trades medical coverage has spent a lot of money at Rothman,” said Dan Christy, Vice President of the Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council as well as a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders in Gloucester County and Director of Special Projects for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters. “Heavy construction takes a toll on the body over the years. We have supported Rothman by utilizing their services, but they won’t support us now. It is safe to say union membership has spent millions of dollars with Rothman. They don’t cut their fees, but they asked us to cut our fees. We did, but it wasn’t enough.”
Reneging on a commitment is one thing and turning its back on years of loyalty, but both Cosner and Christy emphasized it goes beyond that. It gets back to the fact Rothman has decided to finish their facilities by using cheap labor.
“The reason they (non-union contractors) can come in so low is because they don’t have to pay into a pension plan and they don’t provide healthcare,” Cosner said. “They have no healthcare, no pension. They pay substandard wages. No apprenticeship. No OSHA. They don’t go through drug screening. They don’t use local people.”
The protests started last week, but Rothman sent a feeler out indicating a willingness to meet to see if they could come to an agreement. They met again last week but could not reach an agreement, so protests will continue at Rothman facilities, not the construction sites, throughout South Jersey. “We are not protesting the contractors, we are protesting Rothman,” said Cosner.
Christy also said if the situation doesn’t get resolved, they would ask their members to consider looking elsewhere for orthopedics. Both Christy and Cosner recognize Rothman as the leader in orthopedic care so they won’t prohibit a union member from going there, but, under the circumstances, they are not going to endorse Rothman either.
Rothman achieved its reputation by adhering to the best practices and utilizing the best techniques in orthopedic care. Cosner, Christy and the members of the Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council would like to see Rothman utilize the same principles in constructing the buildings where they provide that care.