UN Fires Union Employees Just In Time For International Workers’ Day

May 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Et tu, Brute?

It’s May Day, not the Ides of March, but the betrayal stings no less. The United Nations fired ABM, a union contractor and its longtime contractor Friday and replaced them with the nonunion A-1 Office Services Management. Members of the Local 32BJ were told Thursday that Friday would be their last day, oh, and their health insurance was bye-bye to boot. Happy International Worker’s Day.

The NY Daily News reports:

Meanwhile, the United Nations, whose mission is to defend human rights in the world, gave a group of workers an unwelcome May Day gift by allowing them to be thrown out on the street.

“It is hurtful,” said Mark Serge, 60, who has been an elevator operator at the UN for 28 years. “I have done my job with honesty and to the best of my ability all these years – and this happens. It hurts.”

The list of people Serge, of Astoria, Queens, has taken up and down the UN building is a true Who is Who of the international stage.
“[Presidents] Obama, Bush and Clinton; Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Queen Elizabeth, Mother Teresa, two Popes,”Serge proudly names. “Thousands of ambassadors, politicians and foreign dignitaries have ridden in my elevator. The UN security people, the Secret Service, they know me and trust me.”

Yet, on Friday Serge and five of his coworkers, all members of Local 32BJ, were unceremoniously dumped from “the pomp and circumstance of the UN,” said Eugenio Villasante, a union representative.

The workers tried to apply for their same jobs with the new contractor but were told they weren’t eligible because they were union members. Are you kidding me, UN? In response, the union filed charges alleging unfair labor practices against the new contractor with the federal National Labor Relations Board. Hint to the United Nations and their new contractor: An employer cannot discriminate based on union membership.

The UN’s website states, “The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights. ” Better living standards generally include being able to apply for their own job and being given some notice that they are losing their healthcare benefits. In case everyone forgot, here is the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 23.

* (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
* (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
* (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
* (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

What a kick in the May Day to human rights. This should be an international public relations debacle for the UN, whose stated mission is to protect human rights around the world but they can’t seem to manage it within their own hiring procedures. Also, special kudos to the new contractor, nonunion A-1 Office Services Management, for being so desperate to punish union members that they are willing to violate labor law.

Surely the world will be a better place when workers around the world are not free to enjoy the benefits of a union and can negotiate their salaries and benefits mano-e-corporation. Hey, the middle class in America can no longer afford to shop at WalMart, so this whole system of cheapening labor will eventually harm the very people who seek to destroy it when demand for their products goes up in smoke.

Shame on you, United Nations and A-1 Office Services Management. Let’s hope the UN rectifies this on Monday.

Image: SusanRosenthal.com

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