Labor Pains: Nova Southeastern Unlawfully Suppressed Union, NLRB Determines

Categories: News
JANITOR.jpg
Nova's custodial workers tried to organize.
More than four years after Nova Southeastern University got flak for union busting, the National Labor Relations Board has recently sided with a group of former custodial workers who were harassed by the college's higher-ups when they tried to organize.

The NLRB has even told Nova that it must post fliers around the university, informing workers of their right to organize. The school has 14 days to post the advisories.

Some of the text from the mandated flier: "The National Labor Relations Board has found that we violated Federal labor law and has ordered us to post and obey this notice... We will not tell you that you cannot distribute union literature on our property."

The NLRB's opinion is in line with Administrative Law Judge John H. West's 2009 decision: that Nova supervisors illegally bullied employees for distributing union information.

"Workers shouldn't have to fear for their jobs because they are trying to get better wages and benefits to support their families," Eric Brakken, director of the Service Employees International union, Local 32BJ, said in an email to the Pulp. "We commend the NLRB for its decision to keep employer intimidation out of the workplace."

Nova has not responded to Pulp requests for comment.

The NLRB's made its decision on August 26.

Problems, however, started for NOVA's janitorial staff in August 2006.

At the time, staffers of Unicco, a cleaning-services company, began organizing for better pay and affordable health care. These employees, who were organizing off the clock, wanted to join the Service Employees International Union, Local 32 BJ.

Nova nixed employees' efforts: Admins said that staffers were violating a no-handbills policy on campus and that union organizing posed a security threat to students, faculty, and staff.

Unicco had been NOVA's janitorial contractor for 12 years and had few -- if any -- complaints. Unicco was voted the university's contractor of the year in 2006, in fact.

But in September 2006 -- shortly after organizing efforts began -- Unicco lost its contract with Nova, and many of the workers were laid off.

The lion's share of these workers were not rehired by new custodial companies, though workers are normally rehired by new firms during contract change-ups.

The workers claim that their union activity had prevented their reemployment.

Take Jose Sanchez, for example.

When Sanchez asked Tony Todaro, Nova's director of physical plant, about reemployment, he was asked whether he could get paid for picketing and was sarcastically told to check back in a few months, according to court documents.

It's unclear whether the NLRB's decision will have any direct impact on these displaced workers. More than 100 of the 330 custodial employees were left without jobs in 2006 and were still without jobs in 2009.

And, as in 2006, it appears that few in the university community are speaking up on the workers' behalf.


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11 comments
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Steven McGonigle
Steven McGonigle

Victoria:

I wished you were able to contact me prior to printing this, I was one of the workers that this decision affected.  I was a lead painter at Nova, not a janitor or landscaper, that got involved in this fight and lost not only my job but alot more.  This decision had to do with a case that 3 workers were involved in, if you read the 2006 decision.  I was the worker that was handing out union literature.  If you would like to update your article or speak to me about it I can be reached at sjminflorida@bellsouth.net

Steven McGonigle

Anthony Chase
Anthony Chase

Kudos to Ms. Bekiempis!  She is a worthy successor to the New Times' Amy Guthrie who wrote the initial story on the SEIU vs.Nova Southeastern decision in 2009 (to which Victoria refers in her article and  the NLRB in Washington actually reprinted in toto in their ruling last week).  You guys leave the Sun-Sentinel and the Herald stuck in their tracks.

I agree with the commentator whose monicker is "Anidiot," at least with their self-assessment.  Right to work states are those with laws that protect the right to work; specifically, they protect the right of an individual employee to work at a job whether or not they are willing to join, vote for, or pay for a union at that workplace.  In other words, the rights at stake in the SEIU vs.NSU case are completely separate: e.g., the rights of workers to know what the law is,  discuss it directly with union representatives under specific NLRA regulations, as well as the freedom to join a union if they choose to do so.  "Anidiot" had better take the Labor Law course again.

There are all kinds of threats to workers' rights just as there are to every right anyone in this country has ever enjoyed.  There are employers who know they are violating or resisting federal labor law but make a rational decision that they have enough time and money to win and that is the goal.  A new book argues that what is wrong with the US today is that even lawyers have come to see law as nothing more than a means to an end.  What Harvard's Lon Fuller called "the morality of law" has been dumped along with accounting and credit rating rules, SEC regulation of ponzi schemes and public surveillance of "derivative markets," ad nausea.

Patti's smart questions are tough ones.  Is there recourse for NSU's fired service workers? Are there financial penalties when employers break the law?  The short answer is "no" unless we do something about it; unless we force government to do its job.  It is the same challenge now faced by the the Greeks, the Irish, the Italians, and, yes, the French and the Germans as well. Nova's hapless university community is subject to the same over broad trespass and "interference with the educational process" prohibitions that were used as tools to trip up SEIU organizers according to the NLRB.  The tenured faculty at Nova Law Center, where I used to be a professor of law, believes it is a victory for individualism if they are fired, one by one, and never stand up for anyone but themselves, very much in tune with Engels' early critique of the transformation of Manchester in 1844 - the complete atomization of human society.  "If I am for myself alone, what am I?" asked Hillel; another tough question. Anthony Chase, Fort Lauderdale

Louiepitbull
Louiepitbull

Nothing to see here, move along, SEIU gangsters 100 times worse than any employer, it's all about dues revenue and corporate shakedowns for them, not the employees welfare

PROUD UNION MEMBER
PROUD UNION MEMBER

Bargaining for salaries that pay a living wage is not a shakedown.

Louiepittbull
Louiepittbull

Living wage is crock, if you don't like entry level job or wage, find another and move up ladder. Like McDonald entry level jobs, they're transitional to better jobs not intended as family supporting career, nitwit

Patti Lynn
Patti Lynn

Is there recourse for those workers who were NOT hired by the new company?  Are there financial penalties for NSU???  The NLRB made the correct decision, now let's see if the SEIU can make some much needed improvements to the lot of those employees.

UrAnIdiot
UrAnIdiot

Once again you prove just how utterly stupid you are

Florida is a right to work state.

Goldilocks
Goldilocks

Ahem, since you are showing off your unabashed intelligence.

Fed law trumps state.

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