More tribal casinos to face union elections

Only a handful of dealers and labor leaders remained outside a ballroom at Foxwoods Resort Casino early Sunday morning when election results became official: Table game dealers had voted by a wide margin to become the casino's first unionized employees.

At 2 a.m., the celebration by the United Auto Workers union and its supporters in an out-of-the-way hallway at one of the world's largest casinos seemed muted after a long and often contentious fight.

One floor above, the piped-in pop music and steady stream of gamblers continued. The only cheer one exhausted union supporter could muster at the late hour was: "It's over. It's over."

The tired reactions belied the importance of Saturday's historic vote for tribal casinos and organized labor nationwide. Both sides had been watching the run-up to the election closely, and its results could have major ramifications for each.

"The implications are sweeping," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

The UAW spent six months organizing an estimated 3,000 dealers in a faceoff against an aggressive anti-union campaign by Foxwoods and its owner, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. But in the end, management's efforts were unsuccessful: 1,289 dealers voted to be represented by the UAW; 852 dealers opposed the proposal.

Depending on the outcome of a contract for Foxwoods' dealers -- which could be months or years away, and still is not assured -- Saturday's vote could result in union organizing efforts at tribal casinos coast to coast. The vote at Foxwoods is believed to be the first National Labor Relations Board-supervised union election at a tribal casino.

The tribal gaming industry accounts for 670,000 jobs nationally and had gaming revenues last year of an estimated $25.7 billion, according to the National Indian Gaming Association.

"Tribes are understandably concerned," said Mark Van Norman, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based association.

A second federally supervised union election is being scheduled in Michigan for 300 housekeeping employees of Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, which is owned by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The NLRB regional office in Detroit recently ordered an election at the casino after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the federal agency for a vote, an NLRB spokesman said. A federal court ruling last winter helped spark the interest of organized labor at Foxwoods and at other tribal casinos around the country.

A small number of tribal casino workers have joined unions that were organized through agreements with individual tribes.

But in what is now a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last February that the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, although a sovereign nation, is subject to federal labor laws at the commercial casino it operates in California The laws give workers the right to organize and bargain collectively. Despite the outcome of the union vote Saturday, dealers remain far from a collective bargaining agreement. Mashantucket Pequot leaders could refuse to bargain and push the issue into federal court.

The tribe fought the NLRB throughout the process leading up to the vote, saying the federal agency does not have jurisdiction over the casino on its reservation. Instead, Mashantucket Pequot leaders have said workers should organize under recently passed tribal laws concerning unionizing.

If the tribe refuses to bargain with the UAW, the issue could return to federal appellate court, likely in the D.C. Circuit or in the 2nd Circuit in New York City. Foxwoods officials declined to comment Sunday on their next step, saying the casino's lawyers have begun to consider the options. A statement released by the casino indicated that management is likely to continue fighting the jurisdictional issue even after the vote.

"We are disappointed with the preliminary tally; however, these results will not be official until all legal issues, including jurisdiction, are resolved," Foxwoods President John O'Brien said in a statement.

Blumenthal, whose office has followed the issue closely, said the law is clear, and if the tribe refuses to negotiate, its leaders are just forestalling the inevitable. He estimated a challenge by the tribe is likely to take months, rather than years.

Negotiating a contract for the dealers at Foxwoods would be a major victory for labor unions in Connecticut and beyond. Union membership in the private sector has fallen below 10 percent of all workers, although there have been some gains in service industries; among janitors, for example. Already, the UAW and other unions are going beyond dealers to organize more of the casino's 10,000 employees.

"With a victory here with the dealers, that opens the door to organize the rest of the casino workers," said Brian Petronella, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 371, which is looking into organizing cooks, dishwashers and other food service workers at Foxwoods. Mohegan Sun, a similarlysized tribal casino near Foxwoods, could draw the interest of union organizers, as well. Currently, there are no unionized workers among Mohegan Sun's 10,000 employees.

Some casinos have been able to resist the efforts of labor unions, said William Eadington, an economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.

But now they could be forced to respond with higher wages or improved benefits. How casino management responds to the threat of a union, and the quality of the contract the UAW and other unions negotiate for their new members, will help determine how widespread unions become at tribal casinos, Eadington said.

Van Norman, the executive director of the tribal gaming association, sees the interest unions have in tribal casinos as an attempt to stem their declining membership in industries in which they have traditionally been strong.

And tribes, although disagreeing with the right of unions to organize on tribal land under the NLRB process, are not ignoring what's happening.

"Tribes are working to make sure, as always, that [tribal employees] are treated fairly, there is a fair wage scale, and a fair employee grievance process," Van Norman said.


Unions swarm Foxwoods

Other unions are on the brink of major organizing campaigns at Foxwoods Resort Casino, after dealers there voted to affiliate with the United Auto Workers.

The UAW is the first union to mount a successful organizing drive at a major Indian casino, after this weekend's vote to unionize by a majority of more than two thousand table game dealers. The victory has been closely watched both by other tribal casinos, and other unions.

Most immediately, the Operating Engineers union says it's within weeks of filing a petition with the labor relations board on behalf of around 250 engineers at the casino. More significantly in terms of numbers, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union says it is planning a drive among the food service and hotel workers at Foxwoods - potentially around three thousand employees.

President of UFCW local 371 Brian Petronella says the UAW's victory has laid the groundwork, but he has no illusions about an easy victory.

"Is it going to be a fast process? No. Will it take time? Yes. It took six months for the UAW to sign up the dealers at the casino, so I suspect that it will take many months if not close to a year to get a full pledge campaign to an election there."

Lawyers for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe are meeting this week to decide on a response to the yes vote by dealers - the tribe has not ruled out fighting on through the courts in what it says is an infringement of its sovereignty.


Tribal authorization vote a harbinger

The day after a historic vote that allows dealers to unionize at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on the Mashantucket Pequot tribe to be “heroes for generations” by bargaining with the new union instead of waging a legal fight.

Table game and poker dealers at Foxwoods voted 1,289 to 852 Saturday to have the United Auto Workers union negotiate a contract for them with Foxwoods management and the tribe.

For workers like Jacqueline Little, a 15-year poker dealer, Saturday's affirmative vote has the power to bring about constructive change.

“We've reached a decision: A majority believes we need a union to improve our workplace,” Little said in a statement. “Now, we all have a chance to come together as part of one, strong organization. Everyone's input is important in bargaining a strong contract.”

A total of 2,640 dealers were eligible to vote. The count overseen by the National Labor Relations Board was completed at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

“The legal issues are clear as to the right outcome, that this vote will stand,” said Blumenthal in a lengthy phone interview Sunday. “Foxwoods officials can delay the inevitable but cannot stop it. We're at a critical turning point for Foxwoods and the country in seeking positive and constructive outcomes, which will require courage and vision from everyone, including the state.”

In a groundbreaking case decided Feb. 9 between the NLRB and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in California, the court ruled that unions can organize at tribal casinos and that federal labor law should prevail over tribal labor law.

The Foxwoods vote is historic, Blumenthal said, because it's the first major tribal casino to introduce union representation. The San Manuel tribe's casino is much smaller than Foxwoods.

Since the spring, the UAW has been working to sign up dealers at Foxwoods. The employees sought an election in September, which the Mashantucket Pequots challenged, claiming a union should only form under tribal, not federal labor law. Both the regional and the Washington-based NLRB rejected the tribe's argument.

Dealers say they've been fighting for improved wages, benefits and working conditions. The casino strongly opposed the effort, putting up posters, running newspaper and radio advertisements and holding employee meetings to convince workers not to form a union.

Once the results of the vote were released early Sunday morning, Foxwoods President John O'Brien issued a statement indicating the battle for jurisdiction, which the tribe believes would allow unions to organize under tribal but not federal law, may not be over.

“We are disappointed with the preliminary tally, however, these results will not be official until all legal issues, including jurisdiction, are resolved,” O'Brien stated. “We continue to believe as we have from the very beginning that the labor board lacked jurisdiction and that any election should have been governed by tribal laws.

“We have made our position clear to the NLRB and will continue to do so in the future.”

Tribal and casino spokesmen said O'Brien and Mashantucket tribal Chairman Michael Thomas would meet with the tribe, management, and their lawyers today. The spokesmen would not elaborate on O'Brien's statement Sunday.

Instead of launching a court battle in the face of the San Manuel decision, Blumenthal urged the company to move toward collective bargaining and work with, not against, the union, state and federal government and Foxwoods' own workers.

“Putting aside all of the complex and continued legal issues, Foxwoods has a really historic, golden opportunity to (be) a model and a mentor for other tribes across the country in dealing with their workers on all commercial enterprises where sovereign reservations are involved,” said Blumenthal.

“The courts have said that no one is above the law including federal labor law, no matter how wealthy or powerful or even sovereign. So the vote is overwhelming, not only in its margin of numbers but its impact in sending a message that working men and women will organize if given the opportunity.”

By facing this “critical turning point” constructively, he added, “Years, decades from now, tribal and union leaders can both point to Foxwoods and say its tribal council led the way to a new era in labor relations at the casinos. They can be heroes for generations to come if they choose a constructive course rather than confrontation or conflict in the courts.”

Some workers not part of the organizing effort who were waiting for shuttle buses to the casino on Saturday said they were staying as far from the issue as possible because of the tension involved. A hearing before the NLRB on alleged unfair labor practices by Foxwoods is set for Jan. 22.

Blumenthal also cautioned that “any hint” of retaliation or retribution against the workers would “be met with strong and vigorous protective steps by state and federal authorities.”

“The state will stand side by side with these workers because they have put their lives and livelihoods on the line and they deserve a strong alliance from the state, in the courts, and anywhere there may be improper pressure,” he said.

Meanwhile, other unions have been emboldened by the UAW's convincing win.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCWIU) is seeking to organize food service workers, bartenders and kitchen workers at Foxwoods, while the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is organizing maintenance workers.

Like the UAW, they have stopped short of organizing at Foxwoods' rival, the Mohegan Sun.

The UAW win “is a tremendous victory,” said Brian Petronella, international vice president of the Local 371 UFCWIU. “The workers have spoken and I would hope the casino would sit down now and negotiate a fair contract for both sides and not go through all these legal maneuvers.”

Rich Bonzani, organizing director of the Northeast Region's IUOE, said he has been signing up workers at the same time that the UAW has been organizing. Workers are signing authorization cards that could allow an election like the UAW's.

“My strategy now is to continue doing what we're doing,” Bonzani said. “We have a little over 40 percent of the cards now. We hope to get 60 or 70 percent over the next two or three weeks and then be the next to file. Ideally there'd be another election by New Year's” at Foxwoods.


UFCW front group bedevils non-union giant

British retailer Tesco's U.S stores have started well, it said on Tuesday, as the chain faced new protests from community groups who fear its marketing promises are not being translated into reality.

Tim Mason, chief executive of Tesco's U.S. venture Fresh & Easy told more than 100 U.S. and European investors that customers have responded well since the chain launched in Los Angeles three weeks ago. Its fresh food - one area Fresh & Easy has targeted as a way to differentiate itself from local rivals like Trader Joe's - was "particularly well received," Mason said.

The comments, released to the media on Tuesday, are Tesco's first on the progress of the chain since stores opened on November 8 following months of speculation and high expectations from retail industry analysts. Citigroup has said Fresh & Easy's launch could cause a shake-up of U.S. retail not seen since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rolled out its Supercenters in the 1990s. Credit Suisse expects Tesco's U.S. sales to exceed $7 billion by 2013. Fresh & Easy has 13 convenience-sized stores trading in LA, Las Vegas and San Diego with as many as 200 more expected to open in those cities and in Phoenix by the end of 2008.

But any hope Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer after Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour , would be able to start with an entirely clean slate have been dashed.


Community groups opposed to the way Britain's largest retailer has gone about launching stores in the United States staged their latest protest late on Monday, picketing the arrival of investors to the three-day store tour.

In scenes reminiscent of protests against Tesco's dominance in Britain, where one in every eight pounds are spent at its stores, more than 100 demonstrators including Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders, chanted, waved banners and handed out leaflets reading "Don't be fooled by Fresh & Easy."

The group - The Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores - want Tesco to sign a community agreement focused on labor, social and environmental issues. Tesco has so far resisted negotiations with community or union groups.

Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank have flagged opposition from unions, and particularly the powerful United Food and Commercial Workers Union, as a potential risk to Fresh & Easy's success.

John Perez, a UFCW director of political affairs who was meeting Tesco investors, said Fresh & Easy executives had been "disrespectful" in some of the ways they had dealt with local groups and that could have longer term implications.

"Their willingness or lack of willingness (to negotiate) will impact their ability to roll out to the degree and at the rate they want to," Perez told Reuters.

Tesco spokesman Jonathan Church said Fresh & Easy's workers were free to join a union as it was a constitutional right.

"We have barely opened in the United States and all we ask is for people to give us the opportunity to demonstrate that we can live up to our promises," Church told reporters.


Advice: File lawsuit against lazy union

Question: I was wrongfully terminated from my job after more than 10 years with the company, but my union failed to act. My former employer says it will only deal with the union because there is a collective bargaining agreement. What are my options? - L.V., Los Angeles

Answer: The collective bargaining agreement between your union and the employer may well provide for a mediation or arbitration of your grievance against the employer. However, the union is your "exclusive representative" to take up the cause.

If the union is not doing anything, you can pursue an administrative claim and/or a lawsuit against the union, which has a well-recognized legal duty to provide you with fair representation. Also, if the union ignores you, it does not mean you cannot take on the employer yourself.

There also may be approaching deadlines. For example, you may have an administrative claim that you initially want to file against the employer, such as with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing, or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You may have an administrative claim to make to the National Labor Relations Board about the union.

Under the circumstances, promptly find your way to a qualified employment or labor attorney. The Los Angeles County Bar Association has an excellent lawyer referral service at 213-243-1525.


NY Carpenters union stanches corruption

The carpenters’ union local for Manhattan's East Side was placed under emergency supervision yesterday by Douglas McCarron, the president of the parent union in Washington.

In a news release, the parent union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, said officials with Local 157 here had acted inconsistently with the standards expected of the union’s employees. Members of the carpenters’ union said its independent investigator was looking into allegations of no-show jobs at Local 157.

Also yesterday, the union announced that the business manager of Local 157 had resigned. One business representative was fired, a second resigned and a third was suspended, the union said. Mr. McCarron has appointed the union’s Eastern District vice president, Frank Spencer, to temporarily oversee Local 157.


Dual grievances prompt waterfront strike

About 10 union workers picketed the offices of Harborside Refrigerated Services at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal Nov. 27, one day after striking the cold storage business.

The workers, members of the warehouse division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 29, said they were striking to protest the lack of a contract since July 2006, and the death of a co-worker, whom they said couldn’t get health insurance because he wasn’t a full-time employee.

Peter Olney, director of organizing for ILWU, said the warehouse workers want the company to hire more full-time workers so that they can qualify for health insurance benefits.

The death of worker Efren Montes Sr., 63, from complications following heart surgery was the emotional issue that prompted the strike, Olney said. Montes was classified as a probationary worker and not eligible for health benefits despite working at the facility for seven years, Olney said.

The union is seeking to put the minimum hours of work to qualify for health benefits at 1,000 hours during a year, while the company is offering a minimum of 1,600 hours before workers would qualify for health benefits.

Ed Plant, owner of Harborside Refrigerated Services, said the company has met with union officials 23 times to negotiate a new contract, but the union wants more than it is willing to give.

“Our business isn’t full time. It’s only full time when a ship comes in,” Plant said.

Operating at the Tenth Avenue Terminal since 1996, Harborside has about five full-time employees, and uses dispatched union workers to supplement that core on an “as needed basis,” Plant said.

ILWU said Harborside has about 12 core workers, and regularly lays off and rehires workers, preventing them from qualifying for health insurance.

Union workers with the ILWU’s longshoremen’s division said they were respecting the picket line at Harborside, so if there is any work involving warehousing, it won’t get done, Olney said.

Plant said the container cargo being unloaded from Dole ships doesn’t involve warehousing, and there are no planned shipments until next year.
The parties were scheduled to meet Tuesday.

Plant and his son also operate another business, San Diego Cold Storage in National City.


Misdirected LIUNA rat draws TRO

Few people like rats, but the one Joseph Chetrit fears is bigger than most. The Englewood resident and New York City developer is fighting to stop a New York laborers union from erecting a 15-foot inflatable black rat outside his home.

At issue is what methods Local 79 of Laborers' International Union of North America can use in its campaign to persuade Chetrit to use union labor on a project. The dispute, which is now in the courts, concerns a symbol of union activity that has become commonplace around North Jersey.

Court papers say the union first placed the rodent outside Chetrit's home, on a grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, on Sept. 27. It reappeared each day for a week, and a smaller rat was erected there for a few days in early October -- accompanied by one or two union members distributing leaflets, stating that Chetrit "allows workers to be exploited at his properties."

Finally, on Oct. 24, Chetrit filed suit, seeking a restraining order to prevent the union from erecting the rat outside his home.

The developer -- who is a principal with New York-based The Chetrit Group LLC -- claims that union members have been abusive and confrontational to his family, which includes four children, ages 11 to 18, and that the project in dispute is not even his.

The family says they have feared for their safety, and have had to walk through a "gauntlet" to get into their house or out to the nearby synagogue, court papers say.

Two weeks ago, Superior Court Judge Robert P. Contillo granted Chetrit a temporary restraining order that prevents the union from putting the rat outside his home. The union also cannot distribute leaflets within 60 feet of the Chetrits' family driveway.

Contillo will hear arguments Dec. 7 to determine whether the restraining order should be continued, said Steve Klein, Chetrit's attorney.

"It's not about a rat," Chetrit's wife, Nancy, said in a brief interview from the family's Englewood home. "It's about a right to privacy, and intimidation."

But the union says it is merely pressing its case for Chetrit to use union labor on a project. The union, in court papers, cited the New Jersey Anti-Injunction Act, which prohibits a judge from preventing people from "giving publicity to the existence of, or the facts involved in, any labor dispute, whether by advertising, speaking, patrolling, picketing."

Neither the union, nor its attorney, Vincent M. Giblin of Iselin, could be reached for comment.

Yet it's unclear whether Chetrit is even the person they want to pressure.

The union targeted Chetrit in the belief that he is developing a property at 855 Sixth Ave. without union workers. The union also put the rat outside that property, and The Chetrit Group's Fifth Avenue office.

But Chetrit says in court papers that neither he nor the company have an interest in that project, which is being developed by his brothers.

His attorneys have argued that because he isn't in a labor dispute with the union, it isn't protected by the Anti-Injunction Act, according to court papers.

Contillo disputed that claim. But he said that "the Chetrit's New Jersey home has absolutely nothing to do with this New York labor dispute."

"A huge inflatable rat outside a job site or office is one thing," Contillo wrote. "Its placement a few feet from a private residence is quite another."

The judge noted that one of Chetrit's children has "seen a counselor over the issue." And he rejected a union attorney's comparison of the inflatable rat to the balloon characters in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"It is the hostile placement immediately adjacent to the home, towering over the sidewalk, directly facing the home, with the rat's claws and teeth bared, that creates the intimidating and menacing effect," Contillo wrote.


Colorado turns into a labor-state

Gov. Bill Ritter has nudged Colorado one step closer to a collective bargaining compact with unions representing government employees. Rather than a payoff to big labor for their moral and financial support during his campaign, the governor creatively terms this a "partnership" with dedicated and conscientious government workers.

That Ritter implemented this new policy through the back door by executive order rather than asking the legislature to address it by law is a measure of how controversial he recognizes this to be.

The last thing Democrats wanted was an open debate in the next legislative session. The governor got them off the hook, saving them from going on record with a party line, pro-union vote.

In an e-mail to all state employees, Ritter treaded oh so carefully, emphasizing the limited nature of this new arrangement regarding strikes, agency fees and binding arbitration - all the things it doesn't allow . . . yet! Knowing this letter would be made public, it might have appeared unseemly to be verbally popping champagne corks with union leaders and their new recruits.

No one who understands the quid pro quo of politics can be surprised by this move. As I've explained many times, party trumps person. Bill Ritter is no left-wing radical but he is a Democrat, and big labor is a powerful force in his party's coalition. Unions opened their wallets and labored mightily to help Democrats win the governorship and majorities in both houses of the state legislatureo it was inevitable that the favor would be returned - especially to public-sector unions whose membership votes overwhelmingly for Democrats and whose power has been growing while private-sector unions have been in decline for decades.

Pay, benefits, job security and a fabulous PERA pension plan have Colorado's state workers living relatively high off the hog compared to their counterparts in neighboring states and the national average. That's why the Rocky Mountain News called Ritter's new policy "a solution in search of a problem."

No one opposes productive cooperation with state workers, but they don't have to be union members for that to happen. Many civil servants are diligent and creative individuals, but government unions act collectively. And, like any union, their first priority is what's good for the rank and file, not customers, employers, taxpayers or "partners."

Unions discourage competition among their members. Individual excellence that might show up less-motivated workers is frowned upon. Unions promote work rules that undermine productivity. Elections for union leadership positions favor firebrands and demagogues who exaggerate grievances and outbid rivals in an auction for better pay and conditions. Job security and tenure take precedence over customer service. Think of that grump behind the counter at the motor vehicle office. As Winston Churchill noted, after awhile civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.

In areas where government enjoys a monopoly, public-sector unions are worse than unnecessary, they're dangerous. When they strike, they can hold the public hostage, shutting down entire sectors. Private-sector unions are constrained by a company's ability to recover its costs from customers who are free to take their business to a competitor. Public-sector unions have no such constraint, knowing government can't go out of business and has the power to tax its "customers."

That's why Margaret Thatcher denationalized industries in Britain in the '70s and '80s. Newly-elected French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, seeking to rein in arrogant government employee unions, is already being threatened with massive strikes.

There's a lesson here for us. Ritter's assurance that state workers will be prohibited from striking is unassuring. New Yorkers have been often afflicted by illegal public employee strikes, slowdowns or sickouts, followed by union demands for amnesty.

The governor's executive order is the first stage of bad public policy that, if not reversed, Coloradans will come to sorely regret.


SEIU racketeers go nuclear against Wackenhut

The Exelon Corp. should terminate Wackenhut from all nuclear security detail in Exelon’s 10 nuclear plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to SEIU. The union sent out this message in a series of paid advertisements in newspapers in Illinois and Pennsylvania, near the Wackenhut-guarded sites.

In September, Exelon announced the ending of their contract with Wackenhut at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in York County, PA, after it was confirmed that officers were sleeping on the job. Now SEIU is encouraging communities surrounding the remaining Wackenhut-guarded sites to contact their congressional representatives and insist that Exelon take the same action in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

“We commend Exelon for doing the right thing to protect the safety of the communities and the workers around Peach Bottom,” said Valarie Long, head of SEIU’s Property Services division. “But we also strongly encourage Exelon to consider similar measures at the ten other nuclear sites where they contract.”

“Wackenhut overworks its guards, underpays them, skimps on—and sometimes fudges—training, fake drills, and then, when problems come to light, they fire scapegoats and claim to be shocked, shocked, by sleepy guards,” the ad says.

The ad also quotes Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, who has noted that: “The real issue is one of management and training and not individuals trying to make a decent living in an environment of fear.”

The largest company trading on the London exchange, security conglomerate G4S owns Wackenhut, which this past summer was the subject of a congressional oversight committee regarding Wackenhut’s record of poor contract performance. See eyeonwackenhut.org for more about Wackenhut Services, Inc. and the campaign to improve conditions for security guards.

SEIU, the fastest-growing union in North America, with 1.9 million members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, is also the largest union of security officers in the nation. The union represents over 25,000 officers who work for private security companies.


AFL-CIO boycotts an entire city

For the first time ever, Arizona's AFL-CIO is urging members of its labor union to boycott the city of Nogales.

The union says Nogales won't let its members pay their dues by deducting them from paychecks. They charge workers are being denied their rights in an attempt to break Nogales' unions. So the unions are backing a recall of Nogales' new mayor and three new council members.

On the other side, the mayor says the city wants unions to negotiate payroll deduction in their contracts. He denies any union busting. He insists the effort to recall him is backed by only a few.

Rebekah Friend, secretary treasurer of the Arizona ALF-CIO, told a Nogales news conference, "I am asking the 149,000 working men and women of Arizona who belong to the Arizona AFL-CIO and their families to boycott Nogales."

The AFL-CIO charges Nogales' new mayor and three new council members mistreat union workers.

Friend says, "I think it's union busting at its finest."

The city no longer deducts union dues from workers' paychecks.

Friend says, "It's a blatant attempt to deny a worker's rights. The city allows their employees to have other deductions such as United Way."

It's the latest problem between unions and newly elected politicians. Union contracts expired in June and new contract talks are about to begin.

"We just believe it will not be negotiated in good faith," says Linda Hatfield, president of CWA Local 7000, which represents Nogales' blue and white collar workers.

Union leaders are supporting a recall, Hatfield explains, "so that we can elect politicians that care about the people and will work with us."

Ignacio Barraza, Nogales mayor, says, "The new members of council and myself have gone far and above of what is usually required of government in trying to insure that employee groups have a voice."

Barraza is in Mexico on city business. By phone he accused union leaders of intimidation and said the threat of recall doesn't worry him.

Barraza says, "It's a small minority of individuals within the community who are used to getting their own way. That's not going to happen anymore."

December 13th is the deadline for people unhappy with the mayor to collect enough signatures to force a recall election.


PBS: Defending against abuse of workers' rights

"Voices of Vision", part 1

"Voices of Vision", part 2

"Voices of Vision", part 3
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