Salt Lake City, Utah (June 4, 2003) – Threatened with losing their jobs simply because they had rejected unionization, over thirty Salt Lake City area workers are appealing a preliminary decision by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office that whitewashes actions by union officials and a conglomerate of port employers to transfer Utah-based jobs to unionized marine clerks on the West Coast.
With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation, over thirty non-union employees of Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) are filing an appeal in Washington, DC with NRLB General Counsel Arthur Rosenfeld. Unless Rosenfeld issues a complaint, the employees will likely lose their jobs simply because they chose to refrain from union representation.
Despite the fact that the employees’ case was based on well-established law, the NLRB regional office dismissed the unfair labor practice charges last month. Last February, several members of Utah’s Congressional delegation, including Senator Hatch, Senator Bennett, and Representative Cannon, urged the NLRB to take quick action to protect the employees.
“Now is the time for NRLB General Counsel Arthur Rosenfeld to step up and protect these workers from another blatant union power grab,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is wrong for employees to lose their jobs because they exercised their freedom of association.”
In November 2002, with the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the workers filed charges with the NLRB against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) for making an agreement that would require SSA to eliminate jobs at its non-union Salt Lake City facility.
The employees are responsible for tactical management of day-to-day activities and perform computerized planning work over the company’s rail, yard, and vessel functions. By insisting that this planning work instead be performed at new facilities at the ports staffed by unionized “marine clerks” rather than non-union employees, ILWU and PMA officials violate the employees’ right to refrain from unionization under federal law and Utah’s Right to Work Law. If allowed to stand, the NRLB’s decision solidifies union control over vital jobs performed by non-union employees.
Control over the clerk jobs was a top bargaining priority for the union hierarchy, whose actions sparked a $2-billion-a-day shutdown of West Coast ports last Fall. Before the 10-day lockout in October, the ILWU hierarchy employed a variety of work slowdown tactics, including deliberately understaffing key operations and sending workers to jobs for which they were not qualified, which made it impossible for the ports to function.
“The shutdown of West Coast ports was a naked attempt to exploit an economic crisis for the purpose of increasing union coercive power at the expense of workers,” said Gleason. “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Union bosses have a long history of using economic and wartime crises to grab power.”