SFO security workers vote to stay unionized, but opponents cry foul

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty ImagesPassengers exits a Caltrain commuter train during the morning commute

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty ImagesPassengers exits a Caltrain commuter train during the morning commute

A group of San Francisco International Airport security employees voted down an open shop, meaning the workers will stay unionized — a move opponents are protesting.

Baggage screener Stephen Burke, who led the open-shop campaign, hoped to win handily when ballots were counted at the National Labor Relations Board office in San Francisco on Monday. If the majority of airport security workers had voted yes, they would have created the largest open shop in the country, Burke said.

But he and other petitioners were out of luck when only 619 screeners voted, well short of the 1,137 SFO employs. The petitioners needed 570 votes to win, but they garnered 498. The other 121 voters wanted to remain part of Service Employees International Union Local 1877, which represents them in negotiations with the airport's private security contractor, Covenant Aviation Security.

Burke insists the results show a considerable lack of union support, and says he would have won, had more people shown up and cast ballots. He blames the paucity of votes overall on his co-workers' fears about turning against the union. He claims, moreover, that representatives of the SEIU created a climate of fear by accosting airport employees in the break room or calling them at home — violations of labor law.

On the day of the election, Burke sent an incident report to Covenant, the National Labor Relations Board and attorney Glenn Taubman of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation — an anti-union organization based in Virginia. In the report, Burke accused an SEIU shop steward of entering the break room with doughnuts and cupcakes, which he interpreted as a “food bribe.” He accused another union representative of tearing down the “Vote Yes” fliers he had posted all over Terminal 2. He also accused SEIU members of grabbing security employees' ID badges and demanding to know how they voted.

SEIU spokesman Jacob Hay declined to comment on the specifics of the election, but indicated that he and other union members are pleased with the results.

“Now that this process has come to an end, service workers at SFO are in an even stronger position to move forward in the fight for good jobs,” he wrote in an email.

Burke said he is working with Taubman to write an official objection to the election, which he said he plans to send this week.

Bay Area NewsNational Labor Relations BoardPeninsulaSan Francisco International AirportService Employees International Union

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