Influential Muslim Group Fights Employees Over Efforts To Unionize

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an influential Muslim advocacy group, is fighting efforts by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize its staff.

SEIU Local 500, which represents 20,000 teachers, health care workers and non-profit employees in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, submitted union authorization cards that were filled out by over half of CAIR’s eligible staff, Christopher Honey, communications director for SEIU Local 500 told The Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.

CAIR appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), according to the Washington Examiner, arguing that it is a religious organization and therefore exempt from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Congress passed the NLRA in 1935, which protected the rights of employees to organize under a union but included exemptions, including one for religious organizations.

The NLRB’s Region 05 rejected CAIR’s argument Friday, asserting the the group is primarily a civil rights organization, not a religious one. The NLRB also set April 24 as the date for employees to vote on whether or not to join the SEIU Local 500 chapter.

“My understanding is that they [CAIR employees] reached out to us,” Honey told TheDCNF when asked about how SEIU Local 500 became involved in the unionization efforts. “This is an area where we are present, and so its not unusual to be approached by employees like the ones at CAIR,” Honey explained.

“We were surprised,” Honey admitted when asked about the decision by CAIR’s management to fight efforts by its employees to unionize. “They have historically been a progressive organization, and so I was very surprised that they saw it fit to appeal,” he continued.

The SEIU hopes that CAIR, a nonprofit, reacts to the local board’s rejection of their argument with a new mindset. “I really hope they see this as a reset button,” Honey told TheDCNF.

Honey said that while it is common for management to put up a fight, it is surprising to see such a progressive organization appear so anti-union. “I think this is partly because unions in this field are not widespread and so there can be some trepidation as to what it [unionization] could look like,” Honey said.

CAIR declined comment to TheDCNF.

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