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.Superior Health Linen Exposed as Sweatshop
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)
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.