Devil at my Doorstep

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It has inserted itself into high-profile labor disputes even where other unions represent the workers involved. In the early demonstrations on behalf of Wisconsin 19s Education Association and State Employees unions, the SEIU provided many of the boots on the ground that trashed that state 19s capitol.


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It first approached employers in a friendly manner and persuaded as many of them as possible to sign a Neutrality Agreement. A Neutrality Agreement is an employer 19s acquiescence to the union, allowing them full access to his employees with a promise that the employer will say or do nothing to dissuade them from joining the union. It is, in fact, a promise to bend over backward. Even if employees ask the employer for raw information, he must refer them back to the union.

The Neutrality Agreement also obviates the necessity for a secret ballot to determine whether the employees will have the union. If the union can persuade fifty-one percent of employees in face-to-face meetings to sign a card 1Ccard check 1D , then the union is in. Bego points out that the proposed and misnamed federal Employee Fair Choice Act would make this same process possible without the employer having signed a Neutrality Agreement. The problem is that while both a Neutrality Agreement and EFCA protect workers from intimidation by their employers, neither protects them from intimidation by union organizers.

Laws protecting workers from employers are fine and good, but their legal protections from the unions are eliminated when an employer signs a Neutrality Agreement. Indeed, Bego cites complaints from employees who were harassed on their way to and from work by organizers, and at least one employee said that organizers told her pointedly that, when the company was inevitably unionized, the SEIU would remember which employees had cooperated and which had not.

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A key point is that Bego always urged the SEIU to call for an election to determine his employees 19 preference once and for all, but the SEIU countered that an election would take too long, even though, during the union 19s three-year campaign against EMS, there would be time enough to hold several elections. The SEIU preferred to have Bego sign the Neutrality Agreement apparently because it made the union 19s job easier and because, evidently, they feared that they would lose a fair election.

A devout Catholic, Bego 19s says that he has always tried to be fair to his employees, often paying them about a dollar more than the going rate for janitors in the cities where he operates. He provides benefits when employees became full-time, which he reckons as thirty hours a week.

This became a much overlooked irony when the one-size-fits-all contract the SEIU hammered out with other cleaning companies in Indiana and Ohio provided for benefits only after thirty-five hours. Bego sounds as if he might be the ideal boss, but that is not how he was portrayed after he refused to sign a Neutrality Agreement for the SEIU in After he refused, the union filed complaints against him with the National Labor Relations Board NLRB , the federal agency that oversees labor disputes. These complaints did not have to be bona fide.

Just having allegations in place made it possible for the union to make press releases and flyers listing the allegations against the company. The complaints had been made, regardless of whether there was any merit in them, just so they could be used in this way. The flyers and chanting marchers became quite colorful as EMS was referred to as 1Ca rat contractor 1D and completely unfounded charges were made such as that janitors had been forced to carry around human body parts.

For example, after a surprise Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA inspection found some minor violations, including a single frayed electrical cord, the damaged cord was reported in an SEIU flyer, probably with the union 19s hope that, next to more serious-sounding fabricated and exaggerated complaints, it would not cause readers to think, 1COne damaged cord is the best they could come up with? At Halloween, the union used children to trick-or-treat these homes with union flyers attacking Bego and his company. The children actually visited Bego 19s own home, where he says that he gave them candy while keeping an eye on the adults waiting for the children in a nearby car.

For example, Interfaith Worker Justice brought prominent clergy to bat for the union, and Bego welcomed a meeting with them, naively hoping that once they heard his side they might realize that he was not a bad guy. All we care about is that unions lift people out of poverty and we want you to be union. Notably, when Bego demurred at a particular claim made by a Rev. Hawking, she cried, 1CAre you calling me a liar? Trespassing against the buildings of EMS 19 clients let alone their private homes is an example. Now, twelve out of local EMS employees either quit or were fired for cause, including theft and poor attendance, and these individuals joined the union protest.

All of them then engaged in actions considered illegal under the rules of recognitional campaigns, so when they applied for reinstatement, EMS turned them down. Subsequently, though, there were moves by certain executive and legislative federal officials to undermine the judge 19s ruling.

Bego 19s primary and rather passive strategy was simply to hold out. One disadvantage of this became apparent: while he expected the union to commit to their campaign for only two years, he was surprised when they proved willing to go for three.

The Devil At My Doorstep: Bego Pens Memoir About His 'Three-Year-War'

His greatest tactical triumph came one fall in the midst of the siege when he lodged his own complaints against the SEIU with the NLRB and then released a press statement pointing out that the SEIU was under investigation. It was the exact same tactic the SEIU had repeatedly used against him from the start. This step turned out to be particularly fortuitous because, as Bego later learned, the SEIU had been about to launch a new attack on him, but his charges put the union on the defensive and made them delay their own maneuver.

In the end, Bego believes that he survived because he ran his business in such a way that he had the resources to wait out the union. Because his company was family-owned, he had no stockholders to be pressured by the union or its various supporters, and he had impressed most of his customers with both the character of his employees and the quality of their work so that these customers tended to stick by him. In some instances, Bego says, a client yielded to union pressure and went with a unionized contractor, only to rehire EMS, either temporarily or sub rosa, because its employees were more reliable than the unionized janitors.

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The Devil At My Doorstep: Bego Pens Memoir About His 'Three-Year-War'

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