Anti-union tactics push PEF to take action
Members in solidarity
SUPPORTING LOCAL 471 — Dozens of
PEF Executive Board members attend a picket outside the Holiday Inn Express in
Latham to bring attention to the union- busting tactics of its owner, James
Morrell. Four employees of the Holiday Inn were fired in May when Morrell became
aware of their intent to unionize with Workers United Local 471. Members of the
Executive Board also raised $506 for the strike fund. Additional pickets were
held at car dealerships owned by Morrell.
— Photos by Richard Bensinger
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF leaders raised the bar of solidarity another notch when they backed
employees of a Holiday Inn Express in Latham who wanted to form a union with
Workers United Local 471.
The owner of the Holiday Inn, James Morrell, fired four workers in May when he
became aware of their intent to unionize, according to Bryn Roshong, an
organizer with Workers United. Morrell has since been the target of protests in
the Capital Region, not only at the Holiday Inn, but at car dealerships and
radio stations that he owns.
PEF learned of Morrell’s anti-union tactics, which included hiring a law firm to
present a four-hour anti-union training that employees were mandated to attend,
said PEF Region 8 Coordinator Tom Comanzo.
“The word spread throughout the area’s labor organizations,” Comanzo said. “It
is unthinkable in this day and age there are anti-union efforts being pushed in
the work force.”
PEF’s quarterly Executive Board meeting happened to take place the same time a
picket was being held at the Holiday Inn in June.
Approximately 40 PEF Board members joined the ranks of the Holiday Inn workers
as they marched and chanted in front of the motel, located on a well-traveled
Executive Board member John Prince said he was impressed with the youthful
exuberance of the participants.
“It was exciting to see younger people getting involved with the union, standing
up for their rights and taking on the bullies of the world,” Prince said. “They
are actively engaging management for pay equity, benefits and their right to
form a union. I think seeing the PEF leadership there helped lift their spirits.
I was happy to be a part of it.”
Another Board member, Lou Ferrone Jr, said he was equally impressed with the
high school and college students who saw the picket, stopped their cars, found
out the reason, and joined the line of protestors.
“People don’t realize how few rights they have if they don’t have a union. It’s
commendable these young people are fighting to better their lives and their
worksites. It is important for PEF to support them. Some of our members’
children may also be subject to this type of treatment in the workplace. It
needs to end,” Ferrone said.
Along with the support on the picket line, PEF’s Executive Board also collected
$506 for a strike fund.
Comanzo said the affected workers have made a unanimous decision to strike until
their employer gives back full back pay, admits to wrongful firings, and ends
the unlawful intimidation practices.
He also said the Holiday Inn managers offered three of the four workers their
jobs back, but without back pay when they discovered the employees filed an
improper practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“The managers said they would not give back pay unless they drop the charge. The
employees refused, and two went on strike to continue protesting at the various
worksites owned by Morrell,” Roshong said.
The NLRB is still investigating the case. For more information, visit
FIGHT BACK — PEF leaders Don Kehoskie, Margaret Rice Harvey and Tom
Donahue support Local 471.