Management Intimidation No Match for Pa. Workers
March 4, 2010
Janitorial contract workers at the Conemaugh Generating Station in New Florence, Pa., were tired of arbitrary management decisions and a lack of respect on the job, so the 14-person unit reached out to IBEW organizers a couple months ago.
Then things got really bad for the workers of Latrobe Window Cleaning Co. which performs the janitorial work at the facility.
The crew’s manager fired one worker he suspected of supporting the unionization effort. He attempted to pressure the rest to tell him who signed authorization cards. He cut their hours, changed their shifts.
“This case provides good insight into what workers are faced with when they want to join a union,” said Regional Coordinator Steve Rockafellow. “It happens in every election, but in this one, it was more aggressive and blatant.”
In the end, it wasn’t even close. When the National Labor Relations Board counted ballots on Feb. 26, the overwhelming majority of the workers had voted in favor of representation by Johnstown Local 459. And the crew manager is contending with the four unfair labor practice charges the IBEW filed against him.
The workers stuck together and united during the brutal campaign, said Lead Organizer Joe Sanna.
“They were willing to do what had to be done,” said Sanna, who is a former business manager of Local 459. “The biggest asset I had was this manager.”
Their experience is yet another argument in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which is stalled on Capitol Hill. The legislation would increase the penalties for employers who intimate pro-union workers and provide for first-contract arbitration.
Sanna credited the staff of Local 459 and Third District Vice President Don Siegel for their key assistance.
Local 459 also represents generation workers at Conemaugh, and is eyeing janitorial workers at three other nearby plants, Sanna said.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user ukslim.