Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

University of Miami Strikers Win

Custodial workers at the University of Miami have won the right to use card check recognition to win recognition of the union -- no thanks to Donna Shalala. After a two month strike, SEIU and University contractor Unicco Services reached an agreement where the company will recognize the union if 60% of the employees sign union cards by August 1. Although the University raised the worker's wages by at least 25 percent and offered healthcare coverage to the employees, University Preident (and former Clinton Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services) Donna Shalala had refused to help pressure the company to reach an agreement with the union to accept card check, instead of going through an NLRB election.

As Nathan Newman points out in Labor Blog, the fact that the union would settle for signing up 60% of workers on cards, as opposed to a NLRB election would have only required a 50% vote
illustrates how bad the NLRB election process is. The workers preferred a lengthy strike, a hunger strike that hospitalized multiple workers, and a requirement for a super-majority rather than face the buzzsaw of a federal election, where employers manipulate the rules and routinely threaten and fire workers to defeat unions.
And one more thing. This campaign, like the hotel worker campaign that UNITE HERE is running, stressed the poor safety and health conditions that the Unicco employees were forced to work under.

In fact, last week, just days before a settlement was reached, Unicco was included in in the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health's "Dirty Dozen," companies whose reckless disregard for their employees’ safety and health has had tragic consequences for workers and their families.

Coincidence? I think not.

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