Sunday, May 11, 2008

TWO MAJOR UNIONS MAKE SECRET AGREEMENTS WITH CORPORATIONS

KRIS MAHER, WALL STREET JOURNAL Two of the nation's largest labor unions have struck confidential agreements with large employers that give the companies the right to designate which of their locations, and how many workers, the unions can seek to organize.

The agreements are raising questions about union transparency and workers' rights. A summary document put together by the unions says it is critical to the success of the partnership "that we honor the confidentiality and not publicly disclose the existence of these agreements." That includes not disclosing them to union members.

The agreements involve workers who provide food, laundry and housekeeping services on an outsourced basis. The employers are Sodexho Inc. and the Compass Group USA unit of London-based Compass Group PLC. The unions are the 1.7 million-member Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, and Unite Here. The unions say they negotiated a similar agreement with Aramark Corp. but that Aramark broke the deal last year, and they're trying to reach a new one. An Aramark spokesman declined to comment on that.

The unions defend the agreements and their secrecy, saying they've helped workers join unions in growing industries at a time of declining union membership in many sectors. Last year, 7.5% of private-sector workers belonged to unions, compared with 17% 25 years ago. The agreements have "resulted in tens of thousands of workers getting unions" and been a major advance for the labor movement, said the president of Unite Here, Bruce Raynor.

He defended keeping them confidential, saying the companies involved insisted on that for competitive reasons. . .

Labor experts said agreements such as those the SEIU and Unite Here reached open a window on a big debate within organized labor: what kind of tradeoffs to make . . .

A key question in the agreements is determining at which sites a union can organize. Unite Here's Mr. Raynor said specific sites where unions can organize are selected jointly by the companies and the unions.

The unions gave up the right to strike and to post derogatory language about the companies on bulletin boards. With Compass, the unions agreed to these restrictions "anywhere in the world." In exchange, the companies agree not to oppose union organizing at the designated locations.

But limits are also set. "Local unions are not free to engage in organizing activities at any Compass or Sodexho locations unless the sites have been designated," says the confidential summary.

1 Comments:

At May 12, 2008 11:49 AM, Anonymous robbie said...

Oh, great. Gotta wonder if these folks are trying to destroy themselves and all other unions.

 

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