AFL-CIO Presents Resolution at Ralph Lauren Shareholders’ Meeting

Unions, joined by religious organizations, demand Ralph Lauren
Respect the human rights of Bangladeshi Garment Workers

August 7th, 2014 (New York, NY) –This morning, unions and religious organizations rallied outside Ralph Lauren Shareholders’ meeting while inside, the AFL-CIO sponsored a shareholder resolution calling on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment. The AFL-CIO resolution was seconded by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The AFL-CIO sponsored shareholder resolution was presented by Nazma Akter, President, Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation. Akter, who worked at the Tazreen Fashions factory that had a tragic fire in 2012, pushed for Ralph Lauren to explain why it has refused to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which would help protect the safety of garment workers who produce Ralph Lauren apparel.

Akter called on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment.

“It is all the more important because Ralph Lauren—an iconic brand in the world of fashion—sources garments produced by women like me in Bangladesh. Human rights risks for companies doing business in Bangladesh have become a central concern after the tragedy at the Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013. On that fateful day, 1,138 garment workers were killed and 2,515 more were injured.”

Akter continued, “Companies and trade unions came together to create the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. More than 180 apparel companies have signed the Accord, a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management… But Ralph Lauren—a company that has always stood for the highest quality—has not joined the Accord… I urge you to improve Ralph Lauren’s reporting on human rights risks wherever the company sources goods, and to take steps to mitigate human rights abuses in Bangladesh by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.”

The Rev. David Schilling, Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, spoke at the rally in support of the AFL-CIO resolution and the broader campaign for international human rights for all workers. Rev. Schilling noted that,

“The Accord on Fire and Building Safety is the best solution to help prevent future workplace disasters in Bangladesh and to foster a culture of compliance and respect for international human rights norms.  The Accord guarantees that global brands and retailers can source apparel manufactured in factories with adequate health and safety standards and where international labor rights are respected.”

Organize The South To Change A Nation

Organize The South NN14Organize The South

“The only way to win economic justice in America is to organize the South,” according to MaryBe McMillian, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO.

During this year’s Netroots Nation, one panel discussion focused on how labor and progressive organizations are building a movement to effect real social change in America.

Those of us in the labor movement often think of “organizing” as recruiting new members to join our union ranks. While organizing workers is a crucial part of “organizing the South”, the panel’s broader message is that we need to organize people to push for progressive values.

Reverend Dr. William Barber explained what these progressive values are in a recent speech at the AFT convention. He repeated them as he spoke at Netroots Nation:

  1. Rev Dr William Barber NN14Protecting workers and their rights to organize and form unions.
  2. Protecting women’s health and reproductive rights and the rights of the LBGT community.
  3. Protecting our Constitutional right to vote, making it easier for everyone to vote.
  4. Strengthening our public education system.
  5. Ensuring everyone has access to affordable healthcare.

For example, progressive organizations in North Carolina are coming together in weekly protest marches, in what they call “Moral Mondays.” McMillian explained “We have been successful in organizing multiple groups to participate in Moral Mondays because we are all under attack.”

“The South has always been ground zero for the civil rights movement,” Planned Parenthood Federation’s Carol McDonald told the Netroots Nation audience, before describing some of the most legislative “wins” that came from the Moral Mondays movement.

To effect real economic change throughout the United States, we have to stop the exploitation of workers in the South. “Organizing workers from Texas to North Carolina, we will change the South and in turn change the nation,” said McMillian.

UAW and VW

The UAW Fight For VW

In recent years, labor unions throughout the South have been working to organize workers like Will Branch, an employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga TN who was part of the panel discussion.

Inside the facility, UAW’s organizing efforts were welcomed by both workers and plant managers. In Germany, all of Volkswagen’s plants are unionized. They have “works councils” where labor leaders meet with mangers to discuss plans to make the plant more efficient, to make a better product, and how they can make sure that the needs of both sides are satisfied. This is exactly the type of labor-management relations that Volkswagen was trying to build in Chattanooga.

“With a local works council, workers would have a voice they can use to make Volkswagen stronger; in safety, job security and efficiency,” said Jonathan Walden, Volkswagen paint technician. “Global representation means Chattanooga workers may have a strong voice in seeking new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee.”

Despite Volkswagen’s encouragement of the organizing efforts of the United Auto Workers, many of the local politicians were not so happy.

  • Misleading stories ran in the local media, hinting that if the workers voted for the union, their plant could be closed. (This of course was news to Volkswagen, who tried to reassure workers and their new community that they were here to stay.)
  • U.S. Senator Bob Corker made outrageous claims that VW would only expand their plant if workers rejected the union.
  • Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslan offered $300 million dollars of taxpayer money, in the form of an “incentive” to Volkswagen, provided that the plant was not unionized.

“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  [T]heir allies… refused to reveal their funding sources and …openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce,” the UAW said in a written statement.

The union representation election process resulted in a National Labor Relations Board challenge, which was dropped the UAW and Volkswagen announced that they have created “UAW Local 42”, a new union local that will represent the workers at the newly created works council.

“What is best for the worker, is what is best for the company,” VW employee Will Branch told the Netroots Nation audience. “It is not the money that keeps America going, it is us, the workers.”

(That sentiment on full display in the Market Basket protests, here in New England.)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Workers Unite For A Living Wage

Throughout the country, workers have begun to take collective action to highlight the fact that they are being abused and underpaid.

For instance, “Raise Up for $15” is working to organize low wage workers, mostly in fast food restaurants, to push for a living wage.

Cherri Delesline has worked at McDonalds for nearly a decade to support her family. She told the crowd at Netroots Nation, “After ten years with McDonalds, I only make a little more than I did when I started.” Delesline went on to say, “Mangers at my store only make a little more than $8.00 an hour.”

Do the math. A minimum wage worker working full time only makes $15,500 a year. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,850. These workers are working full time – and are still living in poverty.

These fast food workers are calling for North Carolina – and the country – to “Rise Up” by paying workers a $15 per hour minimum. Raise Up has also been working to help these fast food workers in their efforts to form unions. However, these workers are not waiting for the NLRB to say they are officially represented by a union, they are going “old school.” They are speaking out collectively, holding wildcat strikes and walkouts, until store management listens to their demands.

Their fight for a living wage is only just beginning. These workers are taking a big risk by stepping out against their employer, but they also know it is the right thing to do.

UFCW Logo

Organizing For Human Rights

In North Carolina, it is not just fast food workers who are seeing the benefits of union representation. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have been organizing at food processing plants throughout the state. They successfully organized the Smithfield Foods plant in 2008 after a decade-long campaign. Now they have turned their eyes to the Mountaire chicken processing plant, 20 miles down the road.

“Slaughterhouse work is particularly dangerous. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report states that poultry and slaughterhouse workers suffer on-the-job injuries and illnesses at a rate more than twice the national average,” wrote Aaron Lake Smith in an article for INDY Week.

The UFWC members from the Smithfield plant are using their free time to explain to the workers at the Mountaire plant just how much the union has changed their lives. But management at Mountaire is not taking this organizing drive sitting down. They are fighting back, using union busting firms and pushing the envelope of the legality of opposing workers’ right to organize. (Read the story of Isom, who is a present-day version of “Norma Rae”)

For more than a decade, the Farm Laborers Organizing Committee (FLCO-AFLCIO) has been locked in a heated battle with R.J. Reynolds over the slave-like treatment of workers who harvest their tobacco.

“While big tobacco corporations make billions, tobacco farm workers live in poverty, face racism, harassment, nicotine poisoning, lethal pesticides, miserable housing in labor camps and denial of basic human rights and labor protections,” the FLOC wrote on their website.

The FLOC has chalked up a few wins, with contract agreements with Campbell’s Soup, produce growers in Michigan and Ohio, and the 2004 contract agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association – but R.J. Reynolds still eludes them.

Some people say that, “once upon a time unions were needed to protect workers, but we have laws for that now.”

But listening to the workers in the fields, in the plants, and behind the counters, it is obvious that unions are needed now more than ever. These corporations are not just blatantly violating workers’ organizing rights, they are violating their rights as humans. The unions are helping show workers they do not have to stand for this type of treatment, and to notify the public and regulatory agencies when these corporations are violating the law.

The South will not change overnight, but after decades of struggle, unions in the South are slowly rising again.

Image Donkey Hotey on FLCKR

Image DonkeyHotey on FLCKR

Overcoming Obstacles

The Netroots Nation panel discussed some of the significantly high hurdles that will need to be overcome while “organizing the South.”

“There are lots of barriers to our organizing efforts here in the South, but cannot let that deter us,” said MaryBe McMillian (Sec-Tres of the NC AFL-CIO).

“The biggest barrier to the organizing efforts in The South are the right wing politicians,” said Will Branch (UAW Local 42). “These politicians would use their religious beliefs to push their agenda.”

Right-wing religious groups are another major obstacle. Groups like “Right To Life” are working against women’s health and reproductive rights, explained Carol McDonald.  Someone once told me, “if you’re gonna play ball in the South, you have to know the rules of the game” – and then he pointed to the Bible.

This is exactly why the Moral Mondays movement has gained such a strong foothold. Rev. Barber is showing people through passages in the Bible, and passages from our Constitution, that what these right-wing extremists are doing goes against our faith, and against our democracy.

Another of the major obstacles to overcome is race, with right-wing groups trying to pit one race against another, just like they try to pit the middle class family against the lower class family. “We are saying ‘NO’ to the race baiting by the right-wing politicians,” said MaryBe McMillian. “They are afraid of middle class white women standing with low income immigrant workers.”

McMillian talked about how they are using the diversity of the South to their organizing advantage. “African-American workers know the struggles of the new immigrant workers, and they are out educating others,” McMillian said.

“There is no need to fight each other, black, white, or brown, because we are all being mistreated by rich white men,” said Cherri Delesline, a McDonalds worker who was recently arrested when she marched on a McDonalds shareholders meeting demanding a living wage.

 

Bold and Progressive

To win back the South, we have to “be bold and think big,” said McMillian. “We need to unite people from all walks of life.”

McMillian was disappointed that some of the national labor unions and progressive organizations do not see the potential in organizing the South. “We will not only create a new south, but a new labor movement,” she said.

As they say at the closing of every Moral Monday event, “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!

 

 

Side note: MaryBe McMillian read an amazing poem called “Labor’s poem for a Moral March.” It is too long to include in this post, but here are the first few lines:


There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.

There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

Communications Workers of America Statement on Harris Vs. Quinn Ruling

Statement by the Communications Workers of America on the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision:

Washington, D.C. — Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision by the U.S. Supreme Court undermines the ability of direct care workers to collectively bargain, by determining that these workers are “partial public employees” and may not be required to pay representation fees.

This decision may affect hundreds of thousands of direct care workers from California to New York. The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose goal is to eliminate all bargaining rights for U.S working women and men. That’s completely out of step with every other global democracy.

It’s ironic.  Two-thirds of all U.S. public workers currently have no collective bargaining rights. The public policy question we should be considering is ‘why is the U.S. the only democracy in the world that is cutting workers’ rights?’

In New Jersey, direct care providers, employed by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, are represented by CWA Local 1037. This year workers bargained and ratified a new contract that compensates workers for mandatory trainings, defines an eight-hour day and provides additional pay for workers caring for children with special needs.

These direct care workers will continue to work to join together, bargain collectively and improve their lives.

Small Gathering Of People In Nashua Talking About May Day, Immigration, and Voting

“Your Vote is Your Voice” — Rep. Sylvia Gale (Nashua)

Sylvia Gale and many others gathered to celebrate May Day and to push for immigration reform.

Before you vote, Gale said, make sure you know where they stand on the issues that matter to you.  Watch her short speech here.  Special thanks to ProfJoseph4855 who recorded it.

Video Description

Published on May 2, 2014

A great assembly of concerned folks rallied at Nashua City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014 to call for immigration reform so that hard working families can stay together without fear and that worker’s rights are extended to all, including immigrant families seeking a better life for themselves and their children. State Representative Sylvia Gale and champion of immigrant rights Eva Costello Stefani address the crowd.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
― Emma Lazarus [Statue of Liberty]

Minneapolis Federation Of Teachers’ Ratify Contract That Strengthens Public Education

Editor’s Note: Today it was announced that the Minneapolis Federation of Teacher ratified a new contract.  While ratifying a contract is good news, the details of their contract are even better.  This is why I decided to share this with all of the NH Labor News. — MATT

AFT President Weingarten on Minneapolis Teachers’ Contract Ratification

AFT_Logo-2

WASHINGTON—Statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ ratification of a new contract agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools:

“This agreement helps reclaim the promise of public education in Minneapolis. It opens a new chapter in the relationship that includes the Minneapolis community, Minneapolis educators and the city’s public school system. The agreement enables partners to work together to create community schools tailored to meet students’ needs, and it recognizes and values the voice and experience of educators in strengthening Minneapolis schools and helping all children succeed.

“The agreement ratified today was a product of nine months of tough negotiations and mediation. The vote by MFT members to approve it is a statement of their continuing commitment to the collective bargaining process as the best way to define the solutions that will serve all children.

“By taking important steps toward limiting class sizes—particularly in the city’s high-priority schools—this agreement advances the goal that teachers, parents and all who care about Minneapolis children share: making sure that all students, no matter what neighborhood they live in, receive the support they need to succeed, with equity in resources across the school district.

“I commend MFT President Lynn Nordgren and her bargaining team for working through many challenges in negotiations with the school district to reach an agreement that will be good for both teaching and learning. This agreement:

  • For the first time ever, makes class size targets public, sets a limit of 18 students for K-3 classes in high-priority schools, and includes a commitment from the district to respond to class size issues within five days.
  • Establishes an audit of standardized assessments, with the stated goal of reducing the time devoted to testing and test preparation beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Establishes a collaborative process for creating Community Partnership Schools that will allow teachers to take a lead role in developing site-based educational models designed to meet the particular needs of students at individual schools.
  • Includes small increases in compensation in each year of the contract. These raises recognize the value of MFT members’ contributions and commitment to the children of Minneapolis—and they come after four straight years in which teachers received no cost of living increases.”

The new two-year agreement covers the current and the 2014-15 school years. It will take effect following approval by the board of education, which is expected at the board’s next regular meeting.

Senate Passes D’Allesandro Bill to Help Critically Injured First Responders

Bill Adds New Protections for Police, Firefighters, Other First Responders

N.H. Senator Lou D'Allesandro  Image from Canadian Consulate

N.H. Senator Lou D’Allesandro
Image from Canadian Consulate

Concord – Today the Senate passed SB 204, a bill that extends compensation benefits for critically injured first responders for conditions not currently covered by worker’s compensation.

“This is about Officer Doherty and all of the brave men and women like him who put their lives on the line for us every day in our communities,” said Senator D’Allesandro.  “I believe that our police, our firefighters, and all of our first responders deserve to know that these kinds of life-changing injuries will not be ignored, and that we will stand by them to help them if they are critically injured.”

The bill was introduced by Manchester Senator Lou D’Allesandro based on his experience advocating on behalf of Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty who was critically injured in the line of duty after being shot 6 times.  During his recovery, Officer Doherty discovered that wounds to limbs can be covered under worker’s compensation, but many internal injuries that can profoundly alter a person’s quality of life and ability to work are not covered.

Senator Andrew Hosmer, a member of the committee that worked on a bipartisan amendment to the bill, added: “This bill helps to close a hole in our worker’s compensation system.  It shouldn’t matter whether an injury is to a limb or an internal organ.  What matters is that when we ask our first responders to do dangerous work to protect our communities, they should know that if they are critically injured they will have the support and help they deserve.  I commend Senator D’Allesandro for leading this effort to take a big step in the right direction for our first responders.”

Wage Theft And The Misclassification Of Workers, Fill Out NH’s ‘Top Ten Labor Violations’

new-hampshire-flag

This week the State of New Hampshire released their ‘top ten’ list of labor violations. To those of us who are working in the labor movement, none of these are really surprising.  The majority of these violations stem from employers stealing workers pay.

Top 10 New Hampshire Labor Law Violations

  1. Failure to pay all wages due for hours worked, fringe benefits, breaks less than 20 minutes, etc. *RSA 275:43 and Lab 803.01
  2. Failure to keep accurate record of all hours worked. *RSA 279: 27 and Lab 803.03
  3. Failure to have a written safety plan, joint loss management committee and safety summary form filed biennially, as required. *RSA 281-A:64 and Lab 602.01, 602.02, 603.02, and 603.03
  4. Employing Illegal Aliens (not having proper documentation). *RSA 275-A: 4-a
  5. Failure to secure and maintain workers compensation coverage and misclassification of employees. *RSA 275:42 I & II and RSA 281-A
  6. Failure to provide written notice to employees of their wage rate, pay period, pay day and a description of fringe benefits, including any changes. *RSA 275: 49 and Lab 803.03
  7. Failure to pay 2 hours minimum pay at their regular rate of pay on a given day that an employee reports to work at the request of the employer. *RSA 275:43-a and LAB 803.03 (h),(i),(j)
  8. Illegal employment of workers under 18 (not having proper paperwork, hours violations, or working in a hazardous environment). *RSA 276-A: and Lab 1000
  9. Illegal deductions from wages.  *RSA 275: 48 and Lab 803.02(b),(e),(f)
  10. Failure to pay minimum wage for all hours worked. * RSA 279:21

Wage theft is real and people have to deal with it in many jobs, especially those who work in service industry.  The “Failure to pay minimum wage for all hours worked” goes right against the right wing, anti-minimum wage advocates who like to go around saying that tipped employees make $20.00 per hour.   For those who do not know, the minimum wage for tipped employees in NH is $3.25 (45% of $7.25 minimum wage).  The sheer fact this this violation is on the list means that people in the service industry are not making enough in tips to reach the mandated $7.25 minimum wage.

The other violations on this list are egregious, but the ‘misclassification of workers’ and ‘employing illegal aliens’, are two violations that are hurting all hard working  Granite Staters.

By allowing undocumented aliens to work and then misclassifying them allows companies to pay workers far less than a comparable American worker would make.

I have heard stories of construction companies hiring a person to be a ‘janitor’ and then have that same employee doing carpentry on a job site.  Of course you would be hard pressed to find a real carpenter who would work on a construction site for janitor’s wages.  The other problem is what skills does this person really possess?  Are they really qualified to do carpentry?

We need the State Department of Labor to come down hard on employers who violate these labor laws.  The more they litigate employers for violations, the more others will fall in line and follow the rules.

Private-Sector Union Membership Grows in 2013

Public-sector workers remain under attack; Unions grow in the South;
Total percentage of workforce unchanged

(Washington, D.C.) In 2013 the total number of workers in unions rose by 162,000 compared with 2012, led by an increase of 281,000 workers in private-sector unions. There were strong gains in construction and manufacturing, against a background of strike actions by low-wage workers in the private sector.  But destructive, politically motivated layoffs of public-sector workers continued to hurt overall public-sector union membership, leaving the total percentage of the workforce that is unionized virtually unchanged.

“Wall Street’s Great Recession cost millions of America’s workers their jobs and pushed already depressed wages down even further.  But in 2013, America’s workers pushed back,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of the figures released Friday by the Department of Labor. “At the same time, these numbers show that as unorganized workers have taken up the fight for their right to a voice on the job, union employers are hiring—creating good jobs our economy desperately needs.”

Despite the overall gains of 2013, workers in the public sector continued to bear the brunt of the continuing economic crisis, weak labor laws and political assaults on their rights on the job.  In Wisconsin, political attacks on public-sector workers’ right to collectively bargain resulted in bargaining coverage falling. Broadly, federal, state and local governments continued to lay off needed public workers, leading to an overall loss of 118,000 union members.

“Make no mistake, the job of rebuilding workers’ bargaining power and raising wages for the 99% has a long way to go,” said Trumka. “Collective action among working people remains the strongest, best force for economic justice in America. We’re building a stronger, more innovative movement to give voice to the values that built this country. From Walmart workers to fast food workers to homecare workers, the rising up of workers’ voices against inequality – both inside and outside of traditional structures – is the story of 2013.”

We Can’t Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials

Washington, D.C. — In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on “Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Last week, legislation calling for “fast track” authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others,” Cohen said.

“Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations.  The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam’s is a record of non-existent workers’ rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor,” he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues that a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, fair trade advocates and others have joined to work for trade policies that benefit everyone.

“We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

“It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies.” Cohen said.

Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation, Cohen said.

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.

2. Document the net effect on employment, don’t look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers’ standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers’ weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers’ rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.

 

Read the full testimony here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-testimony

Read the executive summary here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-summary

The NLRB Finds Merit In Anti-Union Complaints At Orlando Health

Yesterday it was announced that the NLRB has begun the settlement process stemming from complaints by workers organizing at Orlando Health hospitals.

At the end of 2013 the National Nurses United filed multiple complaints of harassment with the NLRB.

Jennifer Lemmon, Assistant Director of Organizing for National Nurses United explained the charges in an email to the NH Labor News.

The National Labor Relations Board contacted the Union and indicated that the Tampa Regional Office found merit to many of the Union’s allegations that Orlando Health hospitals have been violating federal labor law during the nurses’ Union organizing campaign.  The NLRB informed the Union that the hospitals will be allowed a chance to settle these allegations but that if they don’t, the NLRB’s General Counsel will prosecute the hospitals before a federal administrative law judge, alleging:

•     at Winnie Palmer Hospital : the employer created the impression that employees are under surveillance because of their union activity; interrogated employees about their Union activity;  made threats of unspecified reprisals to employees because of their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of nurses’ Union activity. 

 •     at Dr. Phillips Hospital : interrogated employees about their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

•     and at South Seminole Hospital also  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

The NH Labor News reported on these anti-union tactics back in September before charges were officially filed. What Orlando Health did not expect is that by pushing back against the organizing efforts it would solidify the workers and their strengthen their resolve to form a new union.

“We hope the hospitals do the right thing and settle these charges against them and allow nurses their federally protected right to organize a union without their interference,” said Jennifer Lemmon. “But if it comes to a trial and the Judge finds in  favor of the NLRB’s General Counsel, the Judge will make recommended findings to the NLRB’s 5-member Board, who are appointed by the president, and will order the hospitals to refrain from their unlawful actions.”

Organizing efforts began as Orlando Health arbitrarily cut workers pay and laid off hundreds of workers which began taking effect just this week.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

In a recent interview with Channel 9 WFTV in Orlando, the spokeswomen for Orlando Health, Kena Lewis, stated: “We haven’t done anything wrong and we’ll see what happens, but we don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.”

If you have done nothing wrong why are you in resolution discussions with the NLRB?