What's being described as a racial incident has effectively shut down construction on the MetroHealth campus on Cleveland's West Side on Friday, Aug. 7.
Jason Jones, vice president and general manager of the Cleveland office of Turner Construction Co. the project construction manager, said the company found one incident of "bias-motivated graffiti" in a temporary toilet on the site. He declined to say exactly what had been written in the graffiti.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy," Jones said in a telephone call. "It was one instance across the entire project site, but it was enough for us to take action."
Jones said only about 20 trades people were on the site Friday, not the 373 who had been working on Thursday. Aug. 6. He said the company will bring the full complement of workers back on Monday, Aug. 10, and that all will take part in anti-bias training session.
David Wondolowski, executive director of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents union workers on the site, confirmed that the site was shut down over a racial incident.
Wondolowski said the incident does not does not reflect the attitudes of the vast majority of construction workers in the unions he represents.
"It's saddening to see the way society is conducting itself today and, unfortunately, out of 370 workers on that project, we've got one or two are conducting themselves far beneath the standards that we hold to in the building trades," he said. "We will clean this up and get to the bottom of it, and make sure people are living to the standards we expect of them. We have a zero tolerance policy for racism."
A MetroHealth officer said diversity and inclusion are among the hospital system's core values.
"These comments are unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said Alan Nevel, MetroHealth's senior vice president for diversity and inclusion, in an emailed statement. "We stand ready to help Turner educate the workers on the site that we will not stand for this behavior."
Nevel said MetroHealth's Campus Transformation project is designed not only to build a state-of-the-art hospital, but to spur inclusive development in the surrounding Clark-Fulton neighborhood. He said MetroHealth has partnered with the Spanish-American Committee, the building trades council and Turner on a Latino construction program.
The incident is similar to two incidents at Turner sites in Ohio earlier this month. According to a report by Major League Soccer, work was suspended on the $250 million West End Stadium after inflammatory racial phrases, that included the N-word, were found written on the inside of portable toilets. There, Turner Construction was requiring all of the approximately 450 workers on the site to participate in anti-bias training before reopening the site.
In New Albany, a Columbus suburb, Turner Construction paused work on a Facebook campus after graffiti was found on Aug. 3, according to a story in the Cleveland Jewish News. There, the company was requiring approximately 450 workers to participate in anti-bias training before reopening.
In April 2019, MetroHealth broke ground on an 11-story, 270-room hospital. It is part of a $1 billion transformation of the West Side campus.