As OaklandSocialist reported, a struggle is under way in SEIU Local 6. This local covers janitors, security guards and other building services workers in the Seattle/Tacoma area. For nearly a decade, Local 6 President Sergio Salinas has ruled the local like a little dictator. Not only has he made deals with management behind the workers’ backs, not only has he abused workers who spoke up and allowed management to abuse them too, his regime has also been abusive to those organizers that he, himself, has hired.
Union supporters, fellow union members, and especially fellow members of SEIU can follow their campaign and can contact them here.
Tired of all this, Local 6 organizer Amelia Vassar decided to lead a slate of candidates to oppose his rule. No sooner than she did this than she was fired. Then Sergio’s hand-picked election committee ruled that Amelia as ineligible to run for office since she had never worked in the industry. The irony is that neither had Sergio before he ran for local office; he got into office the exact same way that Amelia is trying to!
Here is an interview with Amelia:
Nur Abdishakur is the opposition candidate for secretary treasurer. He, too, has been ruled ineligible. The excuse in his case is that over 40 of the names on his nomination petition were ruled invalid because the names were printed instead of signed. People should realize that many of the Local 6 members don’t speak English and writing even their names in this language is a task.
Here, Nur explains the situation:
Another candidate for office is Mike Ladd, who is running for executive board. Unfortunately, OaklandSocialist did not have a chance to interview Mike, but we have the following general statement from him:
“The main issue is the work load. Over the years, the janitorial companies have been increasing and increasing the work load, and if you don’t complete the amount assigned to you, you will get written up…. This has been going on for over a decade. If they don’t complete what they’re told to cover, told to cover all this ground and make it look perfect… discipline is involved. In extreme cases, things have gotten so bad that we’ve had members pass out on the job from all this work load….
“The leadership’s response has been weak at best. They have done a few little things, but it’s nowhere near enough….
“We need a strong union to protect the members. It doesn’t matter what’s in the contract if the union leadership won’t fight for it. We file grievances and go through official steps, but that doesn’t get us anywhere. We get the runaround….
“At Microsoft – one of our main work places – we’ve had members file hundreds of grievances over workload and all kinds of things and they don’t seem to get anywhere. You should understand, this is not just a matter of stress. We’ve had members fall down stairs. All kinds of things happen. It’s getting more and more dangerous.
“We’ve had members like Nur Abdishakur, a shop steward at Microsoft, who’s brought it up and the leadership has responded by keeping him out of union functions….
Member dies on job
“When we had ‘Justice for Janitors Day’ a couple of months ago, Sergio Salinas got up and said, ‘if we don’t get what we want about this in our next contract, we’re going to strike.’ Well, it’s been about four years that we had a member die on the job in Tacoma because she was placed on her own and she passed out on the job and died. And now it’s taken Salinas and Co. four years to figure out that workload is a life and death issue for us. They bring it up when they want to, in a contract year and in between they ignore it.
“As far as what they should be doing: First of all, they should not be repressing shop stewards for fighting for the members. They shouldn’t expect members to be fighting on the job and then turn off their brain when they come to the union hall. But more than that, we need to take the employers on head-on. We should have actions outside their buildings and get the community involved.
Struggle Emboldens People
“We should mobilize the entire membership, their families and the entire rest of the labor movement. That’s what we’d have to do, but the union leaders don’t want any sort of movement that’s out of their direct control. Because if it is, it’s going to take on a life of its own. It’s going to take on its own demands and its own political position. It’s not going to accept the conservative position of the leadership of the labor leadership and the Democratic Party. That’s what they’re afraid of; that’s why they’re always trying to avoid a struggle — because it emboldens people.”