March 2, 2008

Behind the kerfuffle, maybe a real story lurks

There's more than meets the eye in a story published by the Journal Times this week. The headline read:

County’s top lawyer berates supervisor over contract allegations

and the gist of the story covered a contretemps Tuesday at the Racine County Board's meeting, when,
"Corporation Counsel Jonathan Lehman chastis(ed) Supervisor Diane Lange for her comments about a contract he reviewed. The contract is for laundry service at Ridgewood Care Center, the county’s nursing home, and it was given to Superior Health Linens... Lange said that Superior had misrepresented itself and that the contract had been subsequently amended after she started asking questions. Her question was whether Superior was accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council. The company wasn’t; the contract amendment and an e-mail to Lange both say the company had only applied for that status."
The rest of the Journal Times' story is HERE, and the County Board's audio recording of the meeting is HERE. (Lehman's best soundbite: "There are no backroom deals; nobody on the grassy knoll with an umbrella." Whaaa?)

But what you won't find in either is anything about the company at the heart of Lange's questions: Superior Health Linens.

We'd bet that oversight will be remedied one of these days, because the company has quite a history... and it ain't good. A lot more may be at stake here than when a minor contract amendment was reviewed.

A simple search of the Internets quickly produces the following stories:

Pols Report Abuses at Superior Health Linens
A new report has been released detailing significant problems at Superior Linen’s Madison plant ranging from health and safety problems to violations of the county's Living Wage Ordinance and workers' right to unionize. The report is a follow-up to a public panel convened by Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell and County Executive Kathleen Falk, June 27, where politicians heard directly from the workers about conditions inside the plant.

Said County Board Chair Scott McDonell. “What really stands out was how little concern Superior’s management has for the importance of worker health and safety. We heard about needle sticks, dirty and contaminated linens, and a complete lack of training on the heavy equipment.” --South Central Federation of Labor (November 2007)
Superior Health Linen Exposed as Sweatshop
Workers from Superior Health Linens aired the company’s dirty laundry – unsanitary working conditions and the firings, threats and intimidation of union supporters – at a public hearing July 6 in Oak Creek...“Our purpose here is to raise awareness and increase pressure, to be sure that the men and women who work in this community are treated fairly, are treated like human beings,” said State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) who moderated the hearing before a panel of elected officials, and religious and community leaders. --South Central Federation of Labor (August 2006)

Union alleges unfair labor practices at Superior Health Linens
A union that is trying to organize hourly workers at Superior Health Linens' plants in Cudahy and Madison is accusing company management of intimidating, harassing and even firing employees who have supported the organizing effort or raised concerns about working conditions. --The Business Journal of Milwaukee (August 2006)

NLRB Pursues 21 Charges At Superior Health Linen
One of the area’s worst employers, Superior Health Linen, is getting further scrutiny by the National Labor Relations Board which found merit last month in 21 out of 23 unfair labor practice charges filed on behalf of its workers.

Complaints about the company’s practices also raised public health concerns about exposure to potentially dangerous pathogens, fungi and viruses this spring. Workers testified that due to a lack of vigorous health and safety measures, dirty linens soiled with blood, vomit, urine and feces can easily contaminate clean linens bound for hospitals and nursing homes.After being slapped with OSHA fines in June (2006), Superior Linen was also found to be in violation of the Dane County Living Wage ordinance. --South Central Federation of Labor (October 2006)

Superior linens agrees not to interfere with workers rights to unionize
Superior Health Linens, which runs plants in Cudahy and Madison, has agreed not to interfere with hourly workers' efforts to form a union.

The notice was posted after the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board's Milwaukee office found sufficient evidence to support 21 unfair labor practice allegations brought against Superior by Unite Here, a New York City-based union. -- The Business Journal of Milwaukee (September 2006)

Federal Officials Investigate Madison Laundry Company
MADISON, Wis. -- Federal officials are looking into allegations of unsafe working conditions at a company that does laundry for Madison's St. Mary's Hospital.Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating Superior Health Linens. --WISC-TV (May 2006)
Keep in mind: some of those stories come from Union publications, and may not be completely objective. Still, they should provide food for thought and further investigation as the County looks ahead and, hopefully, beyond the kerfuffle between Supervisor Lange and Counsel Lehman.


  1. Thank you Ms. Lang for your work on this. Scum companies do not need our tax money.
    We need to pull this contract at once!
    As well the county board needs to get the slum lords out of office.
    The property at 247 Jones has 10 bags of garbage on the side of the home and front potch.
    Of couse Mr. Michasavich (sp?) could care less all he wants is his money.

  2. It seems that this article has one focus, the debate between a company and a group of labor unions attempting to organize. Ms. Lange, a long-time stooge of Racine labor, was properly ‘dressed-down’ by the Racine County Counsel for her inappropriate so called legal opinion of the services contract.

  3. concrete katie3/03/2008 8:32 AM

    Ms. Lange is doing her job which is more than I can say for most of those pasty faces on the County Board! Bravo Diane! Looks like Superior is not a superior company and maybe isn't even clean.

  4. Diane Lange is one of the most serious, sincere, caring and hard-working community leaders that I know. Hurray for Diane in all that she does for our county and in speaking up for those with no voice.

  5. Horray for Diane. I wouldn't call her a stooge, good lord, it seems to me she can clearly think on her own. She is smart, which is more than I can say for the rest of the county board.

    This contract needs to be put up front and center. The board meetings need to be televised, which would really put the lazy arses feet to the fire.

    Keep up the good work Diane, we need more of your kind on the county board.

    Racine Post, can you do something about televising the board meetings? Can you get some sort of grant?

  6. CAR 25 has talked with the county on how much this would cost. That is as far as it has ever gotten.
    The County would have to invest less then $100K to get this done.
    Cory Mason has made noises about helping to get this done.
    Having the meeting on tape is a help because they can be put on line.
    We could also use Blog Talk Radio to "broadcast" the meetings to the world.

    I am far from a fan of Ms Lang BUT in this case she is 1000% right!!!
    The Racine County Counsel IMHO is a hack and should have done a background on this company.
    How dare $1 get spent on a scum company like this one!
    Any bets on them using illegals?
    Please pull the contract on this company at once!!

  7. You know, I think the Racine County Board must have more dirty linen than Superior Linen.

    What can be done to open this county board up?

    Will Brien Dey become one of the usual do nothings or will he become so revolted by what is going on under the table and actually stand on his own feet and do something.

    Why is a slum landlord who lives in a condo on Mount Pleasant allowed to get away with all the violations in his slum housing? Just why is that?

    I think the County Board has their own little secret club for many years now.

    Thank goodness for the Racine Post, a breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work, don't let more dirty linen get shoved where the sun doesn't shine.

  8. Holy Crap! Seems to me that Superior Linen NEEDS a union to protect the workers from the work hazards, management sure as heck isn't going to do it. Racine should be ashamed of themselves as well as the board for obtaining the contract.

    What WAS the county board thinking, I don't know who Ms Lange is but she has my deepest respect.

  9. I call on the City of Racine to pull every loan give to anyone who owns more then 5 houses that has received more then 3 UNIT write up's in a year.
    I also feel that it is a conflict of interest that a County Bord member receives Loans from The City of Racine

  10. WOW, will this make a stink?

    There is no properly dressed down by the Racine County Counsel, ahem, he works FOR US, WE DO NOT WORK FOR HIM.

    I think the Racine Post needs to really dig into the County Board issues. Who else has the balls to do it? We lost most of the good and accurate reporters years ago on the JT and NO I don't know anyone who works there or had worked there.

  11. If you want to be really shocked. Go to the audio link above and listen to it for yourself. (The fireworks start at 22 minutes) Atty Lehman goes on for 10 minutes (of a 39 minute meeting) insulting Supervisor Lange. When Supervisor Lumpkin tries to interject, he is shouted down and Lehman continues further!

    The Board does NOTHING to stop him and allows him to go on and on. I am disgusted!

    Why would unrestrained character assassination be allowed on behalf of such a shady corporation and sketchy contract?

    Nothing less than a public apology is in order.

  12. anonymous:

    On the School Board, I have fought hard to have open and transparent government. That will not change should I be elected to represent the 15th District on the Coounty Board.

    Myself and Armin Clobes were stong advocates for televising RUSD Board meetings, and I see no reason why County Board meetings can't be televised as well.

    Government should be as accessible as possible provided it's not cost prohibitive.

  13. Brian, Thanks for being upfront.

    How quickly these government employees forget they work for the citizens and the arrogance and rudeness of the attorney is demeaning to himself, not to Diane.

    Perhaps more citizens should start attending the meetings!

    There is truth that there must be much more to the story that meets the eye and the fact that the county board didn't step in and stop the EMPLOYEE - AKA ATTORNEY from attacking Ms Lange shows the total lack of class on his part. I am going to assume he got his marching orders from someone because if he went on the outburst on his own he should be disciplined.

    When someone speaks up about SUperior Laundry and it's dismal and dangerous record and gets "dressed down" because of it, there is something wrong with the system.

    This just may be the catalyst that Racine citizens need to bust apart the lazy board members who serve for their own convenience.

  14. Where were the rest of the county board when Lang was attacked. My hat is off to Ken who was man enough to try and help Ms. Lang out.
    The Racine County Counsel IMHO is not only a hack but probably has ties to this scum company.
    This man should be fired at once! This contect should be pulled at once
    Thanks Racine Post for printing this story!
    Thank You Ms Lang for bring this company to the light of day
    Thank You Mr. Lumpken for being the only man on the County Board.
    Also Hack Counsel takes a real strong man to attack a women like that.

  15. 730 Wisconsin Avenue, 10th Floor
    Racine, Wisconsin 53403-1274
    Phone (262) 636-3876

    Corporation Counsel
    Perhaps we should call him and let him know how we feel?
    Please be nice if you call.
    But call more then once should you feel a need to.

  16. Lehman was right, and Lange was wrong.

    She's done nothing of value for her entire tenure on the board. All she does is grandstand and bicker with the rest of the board.

  17. You're so crazy, you must certainly be among the deadbeats on the County Board who sat there while our Attorney complained about his knee-surgury and lack of understanding about the rules after being in the position for 2 years.

    No County Supervisor deserves to be berated publicly on the record and off the mandated open agenda for 20 percent of the entire meeting.

    My tax money goes to pay these non-union criminals and I don't like hearing that someone amended the rules to push this contract through.

    Thank you Diane Lange. You keep "bickering", we need about 19 more Board members like you!

  18. If Diane Lange has done nothing but "bicker" which translates into she isn't a pushover or a do-nothing, then we need more like her. If raising issues is grandstanding, then what are you doing on the board - nothing.

    Lehman was absolutely out of line. He should be reprimanded.

  19. With the contact information posted
    let us all call up this "laywer" and tell him what we think of his actions.
    He does after all work for us.

  20. "needle sticks and contaminated linens"

    Really, has the county board (with the exception of a few)not ever heard of contagious diseases? This is a health threat to not only the residents of Ridgewood but the general population.

    I've attended more than a few county board meetings and if you live in the county you really need to show up there on a regular basis to see the circus act live. I've had to stiffle speaking up with a WTF is going on here more than once.

    A lot of people think I'm overly critical of some of these people...well when you see them in (in)action you would understand my frustration and disappointment. Ripping on Diane Lange is like a hobby for some of them. I believe it's the ones who seriously are offended that she is not geisha like in her behavior.