SSP America Rejects Workers Call for Union
Company that serves Mitchell Airport claims most workers don’t want union, suggests NLRB oversight.
Despite an ongoing effort to have their union recognized, employees of SSP America have been unable to convince management at the company to recognize their union.
Recently, they delivered signed authorization cards to their general manager at the airport to document that they have a majority of hourly employees supporting the formation of a union to bargain collectively on their behalf with management. Along with this, they have the support of a majority of MIlwaukee County Supervisors that have signed a letter asking the company to recognize the union.
These SSP America workers go to work every day in the airport, a county-owned facility. They are the line cooks, the baristas, the bussers, the servers and bartenders, and are supported in their fight for a union by the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH). Workers and organizers with MASH are fighting for the union on the grounds that workers are being treated and compensated unfairly, that SSP America should follow the county’s living wage ordinance and that the company has retaliated against workers since they began organizing the union.
SSP America had until close of business Monday to respond to the union’s final request for recognition. Just nine minutes before the deadline, Peter Rickman, executive director of MASH, received the response from corporate management. In it, COO Pat Banducci wrote, “We continue to believe strongly that a majority of our hourly team members do not want union representation.”
Up until this point, everything MASH has done was in an attempt to earn what would essentially be voluntary recognition of the union from management. “We’d prefer a mediated solution,” Rickman says.
Management’s response tells organizers they won’t recognize a union until an election has been held under the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is the formal, bureaucratic process for gaining union recognition.
“We are sure you, your supporters and other elected officials in the County of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin would agree that a NLRB-supervised election is the most democratic and fair means to determine if a majority of SSP America hourly team members at the airport truly desire to be represented by a union,” Banducci wrote.
This election would include a ballot vote where employees of the company can vote whether or not to form a union to bargain on behalf of workers. And it will be held at the earliest possible date once it has been authorized. This process can be dragged out by employers or unions by petitioning for postponement of a vote. And once the vote takes place, regardless of the outcome, objections can be filed and appealed up to a review board in Washington.
Time is not on the union’s side. The jobs at stake are low wage and as the process drags on union members may quit to find another job somewhere else to avoid retaliation or a calmer work environment. Already, since the signing of the original petition, a few employees have left the airport to find employment elsewhere, Rickman said.
So the next step for MASH and the SSP America workers is to petition the NLRB for a vote using the same materials they provided management when they asked for voluntary recognition of their union.
For now, Rickman said, the union will begin flyering at the airport, informing airport travelers of their attempt to organize and management’s refusal to recognize them.
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