Union thugs take to college campuses

Christopher Bedford Senior Editor, The Daily Caller
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Once again, union thuggery is on the march. In an effort to expand its influence and enlarge its coffers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has launched a campaign on university campuses across the nation to unionize the workers of Sodexo food services.

You may have heard of the arrest of famed actor Danny Glover at a protest of the national headquarters, or perhaps you read of blatant intimidation of citizen journalists by union members and supporters at SEIU’s march on Washington, D.C., this winter, but it is unlikely you have heard of the plight of those Sodexo employees of all ages, sexes and ethnic backgrounds, who do not want to lose $50 a month from their paycheck to fatten bureaucrats’ wallets. At George Mason University in Virginia, the battle has grown particularly ugly.

The current troubles started, as troubles sometimes do, without warning. One day everything seemed just fine, the next, one March 26, George Mason University’s online news site, Connect2Mason, published an article entitled, “Sodexo Workers Sign Petition.” Pictured, were four GMU Sodexo employees holding signs alongside a union official. The article told of this small band of pro-union workers facing the eternally vague, and difficult to dispute, ghosts and boogiemen of anti-business efforts- “intimidation,” “discrimination,” “hostile working conditions,” “harassment on the job” and “things that need to be taken care of.”

Just a short time later, on April 12, the SEIU bought a full-page advertisement from The Broadside, a GMU print newspaper, this time showing a whopping 20 (of 450) GMU Sodexo employees alongside union organizers. The advertisement boldly proclaimed their noble goal of “standing up against harassment and intimidation from management”

But while apprehension began to creep into the body of GMU Sodexo employees and management, SEIU still needed the spark—the fabricated crisis from which to launch their power grab. Enter the hard-line rabble of the minority-driven strike. On April 15, as part of a nationally organized campaign of extortion, Sodexo union officials ordered their supporters on strike. Waking early to intercept Sodexo employees in the parking lot, the approximately 20 supporters informed their fellows that work was closed that day.

The activists were successful in convincing a total of 70, mostly Spanish-speaking, workers to join their cause or simply go home. A number of English-speakers—who understood what was transpiring—and many Asian workers—who had a language barrier with activists—came to work on schedule. One Asian couple was told there was a meeting in Alexandria; union supporters drove them there, dropping them off and leaving them. The couple is too afraid to press charges of kidnapping.

Managers and administration filled in for workers who were tricked, intimidated or honestly striking. Although the strikers then attempted to convince students the cafeteria was closed, business continued as normally as possible and the people at Sodexo were able to continue serving the campus community throughout the day.

Shortly after, approximately five pro-SEIU employees, accompanied by a small number of students and six union organizers, led a march into Sodexo’s administrative offices on campus, shouting their slogans. They asked for Resident District Manager Denise Ammaccapane, trying to hand off their list of demands alongside the 70 signatures that had garnered from Sodexo employees. How many of this 16 percent knew what they were signing is not known.

Concerned with the escalating situation and a climate of phantom accusations perpetrated by SEIU, the GMU Student Government’s Administrative Subcommittee on Dining Services released a letter, “strongly condemn[ing] the false claims and accusations leveled against Sodexo and Mason Dining by the SEIU,” and, “address[ing] some rumors [students] might have heard about some dining workers protesting against Sodexo.” The letter thanked those employees who came to work on their days off to provide the paying students with food and called activist claims of low wages, being ignored, lack of hours and insufficient benefits “frivolous,” pointing out that neither they, nor any employees reached for this article, had been contacted with any claims or complaints. The letter echoed personal reports gathered today, calling the GMU management of Sodexo, “some of the most receptive and responsive people,” addressing student and employee concerns on campus.

Shortly after the release of the letter, and in response to the thuggish tactics and spreading lies of the union officials, an anonymous group of anti-union Sodexo employees spread a flier entitled, “SEIU Lies.” The flier’s authors are clear that they are not management and do not speak for Sodexo (who is bound by law not to interfere). The authors speak only for themselves—hourly workers standing in the face of union aggression—to proclaim to the student population that the union, “does NOT speak for the majority of Mason Dining workers.” The flier goes on to address, point-by-point, SEIU’s “campaign of disinformation and intimidation to coerce us into supporting them.”

Some lies it exposes are the claims of awful wages- Sodexo workers do not start below $8.50 an hour and receive an average of $10.75—far above Virginia’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The flier shoots down the notion that workers are fighting for their rights, pointing out that, “Sodexo supports worker’s rights to unionize 100%” and many of their accounts across the country—15 percent—more than twice the national average—are already unionized.

The fact is the decision to unionize or not is completely up to the workers and cannot be interfered with by Sodexo under Virginia law. The real resistance to the petition is from those workers unwilling to shell out $50 a month for something they don’t want or need. After all, it was only on April 6that the National labor Relations Board’s Winston-Salem, North Carolina regional office issued a federal complaint against illegal SEIU dues-collecting tactics.

As to claims of intimidation and harassment, the flier challenges readers to come see for themselves and accuses the union-supporters of being the real source of fear and intimidation.

In response to heavy-handed heckling from petition-wavers in the parking lots, and in order to get frightened elderly workers, women and many-year veterans of the company home safely, Sodexo employees have had to organize their own system of escorts and change where their cars are parked.

The flier exposes the true union goals—$600 a year, per worker, which, they say, will be used to, “build political power and make… agreements with politicians and… pay organizers and place adds… when going after… business.”

Though the GMU College Democrats were quick to come out on the side of SEIU and condemn their fellows in the student government, one of the anonymous authors of the “SEIU Lies” flier combated their claims, post-by-post, armed only with facts.

Finally, after weeks of silence in the face of thuggery and intimidation, Ammaccapane wrote a letter to the editor of the student news. In her letter, she lauds Sodexo as one of Fortune’s “Most admired Companies,” one of Working Mother’s “Best Companies for Hourly Workers” and one of the Ethisphere Institute’s “World’s Most Ethical” companies.

The real motivation behind this power grab and old school, blatant extortion, is the fierce competition amongst further politically empowered American unions to being as many of Americas hard working men and women under their reach and into their wallets as possible. If the workers of Sodexo want to unionize, that is their prerogative—but it is Natural Rights 101 that free people may earn property, spend property, peacefully organize and associate as they please. The SEIU’s tactics fly in the face of GMU workers’ free will with the end goal of further hampering their property and individual liberty. It is high time these brutes are exposed and stopped. So far the dissemination of facts has slowed their march but it may take the gleaming beam of the national spotlight to highlight their tactics and their goals and stop them in their tracks.

Chris Bedford is on the national board for Young Americans for Freedom and is executive editor of their official magazine, The New Guard. He is a 2008 graduate of American University in Washington, DC, where he received his bachelor’s degree in written journalism with a minor in world politics. He has also reported and contributed to Homeland Security Today, Voices, The American Observer, The American University Eagle and Reader’s Digest, UK.