Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Non-Profits N Union Busting

Derailing union drives? Nonprofit, SEIU clash in Lowell
By Darren Garnick
Boston Herald

In the ongoing propaganda wars between labor unions and management, it’s often tough to determine who’s David and who’s Goliath.

Consider the case of LifeLinks Inc., a Lowell-based social service agency that is now trying to shove the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) off its turf.

With an annual budget hovering around $12 million, the nonprofit agency is hardly the Wal-Mart-esque behemoth that union activists compare it to on their “Take Action” Web site.

But LifeLinks, which operates group homes and a community center for the developmentally disabled, isn’t going to battle with a makeshift slingshot. It prefers Adams, Nash, Haskell & Sheridan, a high-profile Kentucky law firm that bills itself as “America’s Leading Union Avoidance Consultants.”

About 200 LifeLinks direct- care workers, who earn between $7 and $11 an hour, plan to vote on Friday on whether or not to join the SEIU Local 509. They, too, have a powerful ally. Representing 10,000 workers in Massachusetts and 1.8 million nationwide, the SEIU wields tremendous political clout especially here in the bluest of the blue states.

It seems like an even standoff. Regardless of what happens in Lowell this week, the SEIU and the union-busting law firm will routinely fight again and again like the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. proxy wars in Central America. Yet, the home-field advantage eventually tilts to management.

For the past month, LifeLinks workers have been paid to sit through weekly PowerPoint presentations explaining why unions will ruin their lives. For obvious reasons, there are no alternative viewpoints presented. The pro-union message gets shared through whispers at lunch and impromptu meetings at Dunkin’ Donuts after work.

During these mandatory indoctrination sessions, union organizers say, LifeLinks hires temp workers at $18-$20 an hour to replace staff.


No comments: