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Pioneer Editorial: Strong-arm union tactics not wanted

Labor unions historically and currently play an important role in ensuring fair labor practices, safe working conditions and in securing important health and vacation benefits from employers. What labor unions don't need is the movie stereotypical image of strong-arm tactics to "win over" hapless workers to a corrupt and fraudulent system, who may send "Big Guido" out to make a point.

The stereotype remains alive in the informational picket at North Country Regional Hospital, where apparently some union workers at the behest, like sheep, of the Carpenters Industrial Council in Portland, Ore., is taking their beef with a Wisconsin cabinet maker to North Country Health Services.

Driving by the hospital, picketers are parading a sign that simply says "Shame on North Country." One can only wonder if the hospital turned away a homeless person from emergency care, or foreclosed on someone's home for lack of paying their hospital bill, or perhaps even something more tragic in medical care at the facility.

None of the above.

When our editor questioned the picketers about their rationale for the picket, most seemed uninformed and didn't want to be identified. The single spokesman referred to a prepared brochure that stated, that North Country Health Services is a "Bad Corporate Citizen For Desecration of the American Way of Life," as well as "a rat," that is, a contractor that does not pay all employees area standard wages.

It appears, if you can follow this chain, North Country Health Services retained Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. as general contractor for its Catered Care and Memory Care Senior Housing project. K-A, in turn, hired many subcontractors for each phase of the project. One of them, Brothers Distributing Inc., is supplying millwork for the construction. Brothers is purchasing materials for the millwork from O'Keefe Inc. of River Falls, Wis.

Now, O'Keefe Inc. uses non-union labor, thus the disagreement with CIC, which has a regional office in Oshkosh, Wis., which claims the cabinet maker pays less than "area standard wages."

O'Keefe Inc. is not in Bemidji, nor does it have any employees onsite at NCRH. The dispute, it seems to us, is at the plant site in Wisconsin. NCHS, Kraus-Anderson, and even Brothers Distributing for that matter, have nothing to do with it.

An even more puzzling development -- carpentry workers at O'Keefe Inc. held a vote for bringing in the union and they voted against union participation. Are the informational pickets retaliation? Are we seeing "Big Guido" here in Bemidji.

We would hope CIC didn't call local union organizers and simply told them to go out and picket like sheep. And, if they're here from Wisconsin, we can show them the way back east. They just serve to give hard-working local union members a bad name and image.