Recently, 19 students and UM chaplain Father Frank walked into the admissions office of the Ashe Building and refused to leave, despite threats of arrest and expulsion. At the same time, 17 members of the faith community and UNICCO workers sat down in the middle of U.S. 1 in a gesture of support for the cause of UNICCO workers at UM; they were promptly arrested. All parties risked their livelihoods and even careers with clear minds and open eyes. All members committed acts of civil disobedience motivated by the fervent wish to help secure a fair process of organization for workers.

The workers have been on strike for four weeks. They are on strike because the government has found reason to believe UNICCO engaged in illegal anti-union activities, including: interrogating workers about their union support, prohibiting them from talking about the union at work, forcing them to sign statements disavowing the union, prohibiting them from participating in union-sponsored functions on their own time, threatening union supporters with reprisals; and engaging in unlawful surveillance of a union meeting. And UNICCO’s behavior is getting worse. I invite you to visit the UM Veneral Bede Episcopal Church on Stanford Drive and listen to Eloy Morales, who says UNICCO management called him 17 times in one day, and others who say that UNICCO has also called them, saying that they will be fired if they don’t come back to work (something UNICCO cannot legally do). UNICCO claims similar misconduct by Service Employees International Union (SEIU). However, SEIU and workers have actually brought names, statements and affidavits against UNICCO.

UNICCO has not offered evidence to support its assertions. On March 1, the Orlando Sentinel-not a union entity-reported that a UNICCO janitor named Zoila Mursuli had been fired because she had talked to that newspaper about her union support. Ms. Mursuli is still jobless.

Regardless, the issue of how workers form (or don’t form) a union should be solely up to them. This is about the right to self-determination. This is about UNICCO telling workers how to organize when a majority have already chosen. Saying that elections in the workplace are democratic is disingenuous. NLRB-supervised elections provide for every opportunity for UNICCO to escalate both legal and illegal tactics. What kind of elections process do you expect to have when UNICCO fires workers? These elections can also be delayed for years in courts, and multiple elections can be forced if even minute flaws-such as typos in election materials-are found. Only the employer has 100 percent access to workers, only one side has 100 percent access to all the media on campus. Only one side can fire or promote workers (and has). If this is an election, it’s voting under Castro. Meanwhile, UNICCO workers’ rank and file elected representatives say a majority of workers want a union, and that they have voted by providing or declining to provide their signatures.

Donna Shalala is trying to be fair-minded, and see both sides of the story. On Tuesday, she offered to help find a third path, superior to both card check and NLRB elections. We agree; there needs to be a third path. However, it is imperative that UM contribute to the process, or it won’t happen.

To learn more about this issue, and to get a worker to come and talk about at your organization or in your class room, visit www.standum.org

Jacob Coker-Dukowitz