Union’s protest at medical center ends after 3 days

By The Mercury

A local labor union apparently called a quiet end to three days of picketing activity in front of a business at the Manhattan Medical Center Thursday morning. The owner of the business isn’t sure why he was targeted in the first place.

Since Monday, members of Carpenters Local 918 had walked a picket line on a Claflin Road sidewalk facing Mathis Rehabilitation Services, which is in a portion of Building G at the medical center that was opened in December. The picketers briefly walked before dismantling their materials and leaving Thursday morning. Union officials referred all inquiries concerning the purpose and status of the protest to their national organization, which did not respond to messages left on an answering machine.

The picketers had spent the past three days carrying signs saying, “Shame on Jeff Mathis” for using non-union labor in the construction of his portion of the building.

Mathis said Thursday that that whatever the validity of the picketers’ underlying complaints, they had the wrong guy.

“The Manhattan Medical Center owns the building; they hired the contractor and the sub-contractors,” he said. “I’m just a tenant.”

Bob Dieball, who manages the Medical Center property, confirmed that Mathis had not been responsible for the hiring of construction workers. The general contractor on the project was Hutton Construction of Wichita. A Hutton spokesman said Thursday the firm had no comment on the protest or the process of hiring workers.

Mathis said he tried once to explain to the picketers their error. “I told them I didn’t make any of those choices; they didn’t care,” he said.

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