After two years of foot dragging, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against a powerful California union for illegally coercing 43 janitors, 31 of whom have been fined up to $500 each, for exercising their right to continue working during the so-called “Justice for Janitors” strike in April 2000.
With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, the janitors employed by American Building Maintenance Janitorial Services Company and two other janitorial services, filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877 alleging unfair labor practices.
In July 2000, Local 1877 union officials started levying the illegal fines and demanded that the janitors pay the fines or perform “community service” such as scrubbing floors at the union hall after a “rolling” strike against various employers during contract negotiations. SEIU union officials hit them with the illegal fines and demands because the janitors chose to work rather than sacrifice crucial family income. Foundation attorneys forced the same union to rescind similar fines against Oakland janitors in 1997.
The NLRB will also prosecute the SEIU officials for failing to notify the janitors of their right to refrain from formal union membership and pay a reduced fee that covers only the cost of activities directly related to collective bargaining. The Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Communications Workers v. Beck and subsequent NLRB rulings prohibit union officials from requiring formal union membership or the payment of full union dues as a condition of employment. [NRTWLDF 1/13/03]