Union, nonunion labor clash at Hopkins site Minor skirmish occurs at protest at hospital

May 28, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Police wearing riot helmets and armed with batons stopped a minor clash between union and nonunion workers yesterday at a protest at a cancer center being built at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

No arrests or injuries were reported, and the picket continued without incident. Police said the scuffle broke out between several protesters who were picketing over the use of nonunion workers on the project and about five nonunion workers, who walked through the picket line and onto the site.

Tactical police -- called to relieve already-taxed Eastern District patrol officers who had arrived when the protest started at 6: 30 a.m. -- were on North Broadway when the incident occurred about 8 a.m.

Police quickly brought the scuffle under control, but about a dozen officers formed a partial ring around the marchers, separating them from the gate, to prevent further trouble.

Maj. John J. McEntee Jr., head of the tactical unit, estimated that about 150 protesters were at the north gate of the site, on Broadway between East Monument and Orleans streets, near construction of the $125 million Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Joann Rodgers, the hospital's deputy director of public affairs, said the protest briefly delayed some deliveries to the site, but she said "there has been absolutely no major disruption of any services."

Construction began about four years ago and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 1999. Yesterday was the first picket at the site, union organizers and hospital officials said. It was not clear yesterday how long the protest would continue.

The protest was organized by the AFL-CIO Heat and Frost Insulator's Local 24, headquartered in Laurel. Keith Wagner, a business representative for the union, said a subcontractor, New York-based Southern Tier Insulation, has refused to hire Maryland union workers. Wagner said some workers at the Hopkins site were nonunion employees working for $10 an hour without benefits. Union wages would be paid $20 an hour with benefits, he said.

A clerk at Southern Tier, Mary Cary, said no one at the company would comment. "This is the first we've heard about it," she said yesterday.

Other workers who went through the front gate passed the picket lines without problems, but police had moved protesters from the entrance. One lane of North Broadway was closed in each direction until noon.

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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