We appreciated the coverage that your paper provided in the dispute at the Catholic University of America (“Union Blues” 5/5). Your reporter tried hard to sort out the legal issues, but more important, he conveyed the simple truth of poverty-level workers being manipulated by a powerful institution whose goal seems to be to keep the janitors in poverty.
What was missing was the role played by university lawyer Allen Siegel. For many years, Siegel was counsel to the Apartment and Office Building Association, an organization of building owners that viciously fought our campaign for downtown janitors for almost 10 years. Many of you remember the turmoil caused by that fight, which was settled after Siegel left.
Siegel’s tactics, however, have come back to haunt the janitors at Catholic: “banning” organizers from campus to prevent legitimate discussions, threats and intimidation of workers for talking to union organizers, and endless legal maneuvers. In addition, the latest tactic being used at Catholic is videotaping workers who talk to union representatives. This was an eye-opener for the priests, nuns, students and other supporters who attended the recent march for recognition on campus. Yet, despite threats and surveillance, these workers, like other Service Employees International Union janitors, stood up to their employer and marched with their heads held high. Even Siegel couldn’t stop that.
SEIU Local 14