Workers return from strike to discover missing jobs

Striking security guards in The City’s commercial buildings returned to work Thursday as a sign of good faith during contract negotiations, but at least four of those workers returned to find that their jobs had been permanently filled.

The guards, who work for Universal Protection Services, were told to report to the company’s main office for reassignment when they showed up for work Thursday after striking for three days. Union officials say the move was illegal, but a company spokesman said the replacements were justified because the strike was illegal.

Workers for three different security companies that contract with Service Employees International Union Local 24/7 walked off the job at 14 San Francisco buildings Monday, and were joined Tuesday by workers at seven more buildings. The guards have been working without a contract since June 30, and are demanding higher pay and family health care.

In all, an estimated 140 workers participated in the strike, but decided Wednesday evening that they should go back to work as negotiations got under way Wednesday.

But when Robert Ravare and three other workers showed up to work Thursday morning, they were told their positions had been permanently filled.

“A couple of the bosses from Universal came and told me I had been permanently replaced,” Ravare said Thursday. “I was to report to them at 11:30 to try to find me a replacement area.”

The practice of permanently replacing striking workers is legal if the strike is a general or “economic” strike, said Joseph Grodin, a law professor specializing in labor at the UC Hastings College of the Law.

The union, however, claims it was holding an “unfair labor practices” strike, protesting company practices of threatening workers with their jobs if they participated in union action.

“If it is an unfair labor practice strike, then the employer must take the people back, assuming they make an unconditional offer to return to work,” SEIU lawyer Orrin Baird said Thursday.

But a spokesman for the group of 20 security companies in negotiations with the union said the strike was illegal in the first place.

“It is the belief of the companies that the union acted illegally in the brief strike activity, and they are in the process of filing multiple charges at the federal level,” Sam Singer said Thursday.

amartin@examiner.com

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