Union organizers are showing up at Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections of an open-shop business that has been targeted by the country’s second-largest union.
Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), the largest non-union janitorial company in Houston, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) haven’t gotten along for seven years. The company is currently suing SEIU for $9 million, alleging that the union has repeatedly slandered it.
On three recent occasions, SEIU representatives accompanied federal safety inspectors to examine PJS cleaning sites, says Evelyn Meza, the human-resources manager for PJS. The inspections resulted in fines.
Such an organized-labor presence on OSHA inspections at non-union businesses is becoming more commonplace, owing to a rule clarification quietly drafted in February 2013. Responding to a union inquiry, OSHA decided that third-party agents who are not affiliated with the employees or the federal government are now allowed to tag along on safety inspections. A SEIU spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the presence of union representatives on inspections and did not respond to a request for comment.
A major change, this so-called “clarification” opens up the potential for unions to use the threat of federal inspections against any business that refuses to bend to their wishes. (In the case of PJS, the SEIU wants a card-check election, which allows the union officials to see exactly who votes how, leaving employees who oppose organized representation vulnerable to intimidation, according to a source familiar with the situation.)