An organizer for New York City’s biggest janitors’ union claims she was fired for cooperating with an investigation of reported free speech violations by union officials during the 2001 mayoral campaign. Grace Powell also claims she was fired from her job with Local 32BJ of the Service Employees Intl. Union (SEIU) for challenging the union’s exec. V.P. in an upcoming election.
Dominick Bentivegna, who heads the slate of dissidents challenging Local pres. Michael Fishman, said that 3 other union employees were fired after testifying that 32BJ officials forced union workers to campaign for Democrat Mark Green during the primary campaign. Powell and the other three workers cooperated with an investigation by Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau that ended last month with a promise by the union to hire a law firm to keep it from violating the city’s election laws in the future. Morgenthau did not charge any officials with wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for 32BJ claimed that Fishman did not know that the three fired workers were cooperating with the investigation, and that Powell’s firing, just after she had completed an 8-month maternity leave, was unrelated to her cooperation, or her challenge to the union hierarchy. [New York Times, 7/24/03]