As many of you in the University Community have recently observed, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has engaged in a campaign to convince employees of UNICCO Service Company to become members of its labor organization. UNICCO, whose employees perform janitorial, cleaning and landscaping services for the University of Miami, employs 18,000 people across the United States, many of which are unionized.
In addition, a new student group has been formed called Students Toward A New Democracy (STAND). STAND sees its role in the matter to pressure UNICCO through the Union organization and contract negotiation process.
While the stated purposes of the SEIU and STAND may seem noble, the methods actually being employed to achieve their objectives raises significant issues concerning individual employee rights. The SEIU wants UNICCO to grant voluntary recognition to the union based upon signatures of a majority of employees on a petition they have circulated. The document also provides that the employees waive their right to the only alternative means of determining representation-a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. We have some serious problems with this scenario.
UNICCO employees have complained of threats and coercion by SEIU organizers to sign the petition. A number have said that organizers have told them that if they do not support the union they will be fired if and when the union gets in. Others have also indicated they are not in favor of being represented by the SEIU, or that they are undecided on the issue, or that they have changed their mind since signing.
Imagine for a moment what the Union would say if we presented a petition with signatures from workers whom we said did not want union representation.
The decision on whether workers want Union representation should be clearly theirs alone, and not a result of what the union or their employer agree to or want to happen.
We believe that a fairly conducted, secret ballot vote administered by the National Labor Relations Board is the only way to properly ensure that workers’ wishes and intents are accurately represented. Moreover, secret ballot voting is a basic American right. This way every single employee can weigh in on the issues, make a decision with a clear mind, and vote without fear of retaliation. A prompt vote will provide an expeditious resolution to the question of whether UNICCO employees wish to be represented by the SEIU and avoid a long campaign that would be disruptive and distracting to the university community.
In order for this to happen, the SEIU itself must go to the National Labor Relations Board and call for the election. The university community as a whole, including administration, students and the members of STAND, should want this as well. After all, this is what democracy in our country is all about.
James B. Canavan
Vice President of Labor Relations
UNICCO Service Company