Chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!", about 150 members of Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 2 and their supporters protested Tuesday in front of the Washington offices of the local's employer, the AFL-CIO.
The workers said the labor federation, which presents itself as the defender of ordinary working people, was trying to force an unfair contract on their members, who represent janitors and other office employees at the headquarters. The event was dubbed a "funeral for collective bargaining" by the protesters.
OPIEU Local 2 claims the federation is trying to eliminate a contract provision that provides layoff protection to workers with 10 years of seniority — an estimated 73 percent of the local's members. It is also trying to freeze pay and get the staff to work more hours without additional pay, among other provisions the local objects to.
"They're trying to increase their ability to lay people off," said Jessica Maiorca, staff rep for OPEIU Local 2. "They told us from the start that they were not budging on the layoff provision."
Dan Dyer, president of the local, said that further contract talks were scheduled for Wednesday, "but we are not hopeful" that a deal can be reached.
The AFL-CIO has claimed to the union that the changes are needed due to a budget squeeze following the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision earlier this year. The court ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment to require public sector workers to join or otherwise financially support a union as a condition of employment.
Government employee unions account for just under one half of the estimated 15 million people in organized labor, and unions expect many of those workers to stop paying dues as a result of the decision. The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, said in July it was cutting its budget by $28 million in response to the court ruling.
A spokesman for the AFL-CIO could not be reached for comment. In a statement to reporters last week in reaction to Local 2's threat to walk out, the federation said: “We are involved in negotiations with our administrative staff and, while we hope to avoid any work stoppages, we fully respect their rights through this process. However, we will not negotiate publicly, and the critical work of the labor movement continues uninterrupted.”