Labor Gets Boost as Judge Rules Against Nova Southeastern University


Miami, FL—A federal judge announced Wednesday that Nova Southeastern University had violated labor laws during the course of unionization by Broward College janitors.

According to a judge at the National Labor Relations Board, the University engaged in various unfair practices, such as interfering with workers who passed out union literature. The lawsuit also accused a supervisor, Tony Todaro, of issuing disciplinary warnings to janitors who openly campaigned for unionization, and “interrogating” workers about their union activity.

Nova Southeastern University has not only been ordered by the NLRB to cease these illegal practices, but also change some of its policies, which are currently in violation of labor law.

In 2006, following a successful effort to unionize University of Miami workers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began a campaign to organize the custodial workers at NSU. That fall, just before the workers voted in favor of the union, NSU abruptly changed contractors. As a result, nearly 100 janitors, about a third of the workers, were terminated.

NSU attorney Charles Caulkin says that Nova was not the janitors’ employer, and that the judge was simply looking for someone to blame. He further claimed that Todaro, the manager who had questioned the workers about their union involvement, was at the time of these unfair practices employed not by Nova but by the subcontractor Unicco. Todaro was subsequently hired directly by Nova.

A spokesperson for SEIU, Matt Nerzig, praised the judge’s decision for confirming the right of service industry workers to organize and form a union. He cited the threats, interrogation and intimidation alleged in this case as one more example of why labor laws need to be reformed.

Last week, a bill that would substantially reform the existing labor statutes was introduced into Congress. The Employee Free Choice Act, if passed, will allow employees to approve a union by “card check” — that is, signing a card or petition. Currently, it is the employer who calls for a secret ballot on any unionization measure. Additionally, it would legislate harsher penalties for employers who violate labor laws.


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