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NLRB issues complaint against SEIU for threat (english)
by Richard Leung
08 Dec 2002
NLRB issues complaint against SEIU for threatening San Francisco janitors
Published Sept. 11, 2002
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for threatening San Francisco janitors that they would lose all their benefits if the janitors were no longer represented by SEIU. The threats, made in handbills and at meetings, were aimed to discourage janitors from signing petitions to decertify SEIU and form their own independent union. The NLRB complaint alleges that SEIU is "restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the (National Labor Relations) Act in violation of Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the Act."
SEIUís threats began when San Francisco janitors, who were members of the recently trusteed SEIU Local 87, petitioned the NLRB to establish a new independent union, the United Service Workers for Democracy (USWD87) and to disaffiliate from the SEIU.
In further action, the NLRB issued another complaint against San Franciscoís largest janitorial contractor, Able Building Maintenance, for "rendering assistance and support" to SEIU "by directing its employees to meet, during work time, with representatives of SEIU International" in its campaign against USWD. The board alleges that Able Building Maintenance "has been rendering unlawful assistance and support to a labor organization in violation of Section 8(a)(1) and (2) of the Act." Complaints against other employers for similar violations are expected to follow soon.
Earlier this year, the SEIU International took control over Local 87 to force its San Francisco members to merge into the Los Angeles-based SEIU Local 1877. Despite clear opposition to the merger by San Francisco members, SEIU forged ahead with the merger plans creating the biggest challenge to continued SEIU leadership among building service workers in northern California in the last 50 years. Local 87 represents more than 3,500 mostly Latino, Asian and Arabic janitors who clean office buildings in downtown San Francisco.
In an attempt to whitewash the merger and pit members against each other, SEIU is pushing for a 14 member "Advisory Council " to provide input about the merger. According to the international, "The merger has already been approved by the International Executive Board of SEIU and there will be no vote on this issue at SEIU Local 87 Ö The discussion is not about whether or not there will be a merger but rather about how it will happen."
Amazingly, composition of the Advisory Council is segregated by racial quotas: 4 Latinos, 2 Chinese, 2 Arab and 4 "non-designated" workers.
"This Advisory Council is a sham, and worse, they shamefully tried to divide the members by race," complained one Local 87 member. "The trusteeship took away our local bylaws and our rights to vote, and now they want our advice on how to cut our own throats."
Since SEIU imposed a trusteeship on Local 87 its members have seen their drug benefits reduced, workload increased, hiring control taken away by the employers and the loss of work to non-union companies while SEIU International stands by doing nothing.
This is not the first time SEIU has muscled in on Bay Area janitors. Two years ago, the international seized control of San Francisco Local 14 and forced them to merge into the Los Angeles based Local 1877 even though the affected union members voted against it. After the merger, SEIU 1877 signed a sweetheart contract allowing the management to replace workers making $17 an hour and full benefits with workers making $9 an hour and no benefits.
"And now our work hours are being cut and workload increased," explained a Local 1877 Moscone Center worker, "That's why we want to join Local 87 members in forming a new independent union for janitors in San Francisco."
Moscone Center workers also have petitioned the NLRB for an election so they can decide to stop paying dues to SEIU Local 1877. "Why should we be forced to pay dues to a union that no longer represents us?" asked a Moscone worker. The NLRB is moving ahead with the de-authorization election for Moscone Center workers.
"The trusteeship and merger take away our precious democratic rights and threatens our jobs and wages. Even though members overwhelmingly reject their actions, SEIU is forging ahead with its plan," said Richard Leung, who was ousted as president of Local 87 in the SEIU takeover. "All they care is to raise and collect our union dues while they are busy making backroom deals with employers. As long as we remain in SEIU, we are forced to accept their sellout plan."
Founded in 1936, Local 87 has had a long history in the struggles to improve the plight of janitorial workers in San Francisco and is one of the oldest SEIU locals in the nation. As the premier janitorial union in Northern California, Local 87 members make $15.65 an hour with pension and fully paid family medical and dental benefits. By comparison, SEIU 1877 members in the East and South Bay make only $8 an hour with little or no pension and have to pay for a portion of their health benefits for which they have to wait up to a year to qualify.
Affected members are challenging SEIUís top-down domination by starting a grass roots drive to bring about a serious challenge to the nationís largest union.
"Unions are supposed to be by the members and for the members," Leung said. "They ought to have the right to decide for themselves to take back control of their union."
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