Thursday, February 09, 2006

Janitors, Justice, Things Called American

Advocates urge justice for janitors
Accuse CleanPower of interfering with union talks among its workers at American Family
By Pat Schneider
The Capital Times

Worker advocates are calling on American Family Insurance to prevent what they say are attempts by its cleaning company to stop janitors at American Family's Madison headquarters from organizing.

As part of the Justice for Janitors movement, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin is calling on the insurance giant to stop CleanPower, a large Wisconsin janitorial service company, from interfering with efforts by the Service Employees International Union to organize the janitors.

A letter expressing surprise at anti-labor tactics at American Family's headquarters and urging its board of directors to support janitors in their right to organize was signed by 42 members Tuesday at the coalition's annual Clergy-Labor Luncheon at the Catholic Multicultural Center on Madison's south side.

The letter expresses surprise at the "irresponsible behavior" by a leading corporate citizen and says that CleanPower is attempting to indoctrinate workers against the union, as at a meeting held at American Family last fall.

The janitors, the letter says, do not make a living wage and have no sick leave, health insurance or pension benefits, and should be allowed to organize "without interference or intimidation."

American Family spokesman Ken Muth said Tuesday the company is not taking sides, but has directed CleanPower to stop talking about union matters at meetings with its workers held at American Family.

"We feel it is inappropriate to interfere or impose our will on employment matters of another company," he said. "And we expressed that to both supporters of the union effort and to CleanPower management."

Muth said company officials learned late last year that CleanPower had discussed the union and shown an anti-union videotape at one of its periodic meetings with employees at American Family last fall. "We told them strongly we didn't want union issues discussed in any manner on our property. We told them we did not want it to occur again," he said.


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