3/2/08

Sneak attack nets union targets in Casino War

“I consider that a manipulation of the National Labor Relations Board process, the Tribe and our employees," said Tribal Council member Michele Stanley. "Everyone had to fully expect that they would follow through with an election." The organizing director for the International Union Security Police & Fire Professionals of America said last week that the union called for an election, but never planned to go through with it. The union leader, Steve Maritas, said the union simply wanted to get the list of names and addresses of the casino security and surveillance personnel the union hopes to organize.

When a union representation election is scheduled, federal law requires an employer to release that list to the union. Maritas said the union plans to use the list for organizing and will ask for a late-summer election.

But Stanley said the gambit was trickery to force the Tribe to give up confidential information.

“We have always maintained that our employees'names and addresses were confidential," she said.

“It’s an abuse of the process," said Tribal General Counsel Sean Reed."The Tribe doesn’t treat its employees that way."

Stanley and other Tribal leaders denied that their efforts after the vote was announced were designed to instill fear of the union into employees.

“It was an educational process to explain to our employees what they were getting into," Tribal Chief Fred Cantu said."There was no fear in it."

Late last year, the Teamsters union lost a representation vote among housekeepers after a campaign by the employer.

Reed said if the security election had actually gone forward, the union likely would have lost that, too.

“There have been two attempts to organize here," Reed said."Both have failed."

Both Teamsters and security union leaders say they won’t give up. Reed said the National Labor Relations Board has no jurisdiction over the Tribe, and the court case that appeared to give the unions the right to attempt to organize workers was wrongly decided by a federal appeals court. But, he said, the Tribe voluntarily followed NLRB rules in conducting the Teamster election, and would have followed the same rules if the security election had taken place.

“If it comes to a vote, we’ll encourage our employees to vote," Reed said.

“We encouraged 100 percent participation in the housekeepers election," Stanley said, and the Teamsters lost by a 2 to 1 margin. Cantu and Stanley said the organizing drive has prompted the casino management to listen closely to concerns of employees.

“We grew really fast," Cantu said, and that growth might have made it difficult for workers to sense they were being heard.

“It has to be open lines of communication between our front-line employees," Cantu said,"and our management."

He said the casino’s general manager maintains an open-door policy and encourages workers to express their concerns.

The Teamsters have filed an unfair labor practice over a Tribal ordinance that all but outlaws unions on the Reservation, but Reed said that case doesn’t appear to be moving ahead. He said the Tribe would continue to argue that the federal labor board has no jurisdiction.

“Our position on that," he said,"is extremely clear."

(themorningsun.com)

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