Make us your home page

Sheet Metal Workers' Local 15 targets Oak Hill Hospital

A grim reaper and coffin display at Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was put there by the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 15.


A grim reaper and coffin display at Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was put there by the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 15.

SPRING HILL — The grim reaper perched in front of a local hospital is a jarring image to behold.

That's the point, say union officials who have demonstrated in front of Oak Hill Hospital for several days this month.

Members of the Sheet Metal Workers' Local 15 have congregated on the shoulder of Cortez Boulevard about seven or eight times in the last two weeks, setting up black-robed figures and coffins, along with banners warning passing motorists of "grave problems at Oak Hill Hospital."

The goal, said union organizer Sam McIntosh, is to draw attention to the hospital's decision to hire nonunion contractors for its $50 million expansion project, and to make the case that the for-profit hospital compromises care for the sake of the bottom line.

"We found a connection between corporate greed and health care," McIntosh said. "The hospital is in the health care industry. Don't you think they would use contractors that provide full family health care and wages that put their workers firmly in the middle class?"

Union members wearing lab coats have passed out fliers with the heading noting that Oak Hill has paid millions of dollars in medical malpractice settlements, has higher than average infection rates, and levies "high charges and markups." The handouts cite data available online and include links to websites.

McIntosh said he reached out to Oak Hill CEO Mickey Smith several times.

"At least talk to us," he said. "We believe our contractors had a good number on the bid."

When Smith didn't respond, the union decided to demonstrate, McIntosh said.

Smith declined an interview request by the Tampa Bay Times, but did say yes when asked whether unionized contractors have been selected for other parts of the expansion project. Oak Hill spokesman Rich Linkul sent a statement.

"The current activities of the Sheet Metal Workers' Local Union #15 in front of Oak Hill Hospital has nothing to do with the quality of health care provided," the statement said. "It has everything to do with the fact that a union subcontractor did not get this work and, as a consequence, the union is losing out on dues money.

"The contractor and the hospital made a fiscally responsible decision in selecting a quality subcontractor who does good work at a good price," the statement said. "It just didn't happen to be a contractor whose employees were members of the union."

Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers' Local 67 has joined the effort, which expanded last week to another front.

On Wednesday, representatives from both unions stood in front of the Silverthorn community, accompanied by a large inflatable rat brought by Local 67. A sign read: "Shame on you, Dr. Palmer."

Trade unions for years have used inflatable rats as a symbol to scold companies using nonunion workers. Their target this time was Dr. Kevin Palmer, Oak Hill's chief of surgery, who lives in the gated community on Barclay Avenue.

McIntosh said he called Palmer to get the doctor to lobby Smith for their cause. Palmer was "very irate and very anti-union," McIntosh said, so the union decided to demonstrate in front of Silverthorn.

In an interview with the Times, Palmer said he only expressed opposition to the two unions' actions.

"I told him I thought their tactics were misleading and I didn't agree with them," Palmer said.

Coffins and symbols of death scare patients and children, Palmer said, and wearing lab coats misleads passersby that doctors are involved in the demonstration. To target him where he lives, he said, is a blatant attempt to intimidate.

The "street theater" at Oak Hill is an effective way to bring attention to serious problems at the hospital, and targeting high-level employees who could influence administrators is sometimes necessary, McIntosh said.

"Of course he doesn't like it. But we have the right to do it," he said. "We don't like it that our members are losing their houses, that they can't even buy Christmas presents because they were laid off. Sometimes you have to use tactics like this to get your message across."

A county code enforcement officer gave McIntosh a warning citation Wednesday. The union has a right to protest on the right-of-way, but the props blocked motorists' view of oncoming traffic, said Hernando County public safety director Mike Nickerson.

The union disputes the county's authority to issue the citation and is consulting with its attorney, McIntosh said.

County code enforcement does not have jurisdiction on the Cortez Boulevard right-of-way in front of Oak Hill because it's a state road, but law enforcement personnel could ask the union to take down props there if they become a hazard, Nickerson said.

McIntosh said the union plans to be back in front of the hospital as early as this week.

Based in Tampa, Local 15 has in recent years used similar tactics in the Tampa Bay area.

In 2008, the union set up two inflatable rats protesting the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute's hiring of nonunion subcontracting companies to do its expansion work. The rats showed up the following year in front of GE Aviation in Clearwater.

Also in 2009, McIntosh wrote letters to St. Petersburg College's then-president, Carl Kuttler Jr., objecting to the fact that the college hired nonunion labor to work on its expansion. When Kuttler didn't respond, McIntosh and another organizer went to the Pinellas Park design firm owned by Kuttler's son and handed out leaflets that asked if recipients had experienced or witnessed, as they put it, illegal aliens, shoddy construction practices, contractor kickbacks, "or anything else that may be illegal or unethical."

Information from Times files was used in this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or

Sheet Metal Workers' Local 15 targets Oak Hill Hospital 01/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 28, 2012 11:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  2. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  4. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy


    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]