comments_image Comments

Fox Faux Pas: Company Allegedly Bullied by Workers Actually Coerced Them Into Hiding Safety Violations

Fox News claimed union strong-arming, but it looks like workers were the ones getting stepped on.
 
 
Share
 

A janitorial company painted by “Fox and Friends” as the victim of attempted pro-union government coercion has in fact been coercing its own employees to hide safety risks from the government, employees charged to Salon.

“I felt this wasn’t good, to have to lie,” janitor Ana Parada told Salon in Spanish. “Because I wanted someone to know what was happening.”

Parada’s employer, the Texas-based Professional Janitorial Services, was  praised on last week’s “Fox and Friends” by Fox legal expert Peter Johnson for defying what he suggested could be a government “protection racket.” After host Steve Doocy asked “Is the government quietly blackmailing companies to unionize?,” Johnson asked if “we have a situation in this country now where big federal government is putting its arm around” the Service Employees International Union, to “say, ‘Hey, this is a pretty good union here. Maybe you should hook up with these folks — and if you don’t hook up with these folks, non-union business, maybe OSHA’s going to be coming down your smoke stacks big time.”

At issue in Fox’s outrage segment — and stories about PJS in  National Review and the Daily Caller — is a year-old letter issued by an OSHA official to a health and safety specialist from the United Steelworkers union, who had asked whether workers alleging safety issues in a non-union workplace could designate someone from a union to participate in an OSHA investigation as a “personal representative,” or as “walkaround representative” who accompanies an inspector on a workplace visit.

OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax answered “yes” on both counts, writing that “a person affiliated with a union without a collective bargaining agreement or with a community representative can act on behalf of employees as a walkaround representative so long as the individual has been authorized by the employees to serve as their representative."

Over the past five months, some non-union employees at PJS took OSHA up on the opportunity, inviting staff from the Service Employees International Union, which had worked with them to file OSHA complaints about their workplace, to accompany the ensuing OSHA inspections of buildings cleaned by PJS. According to the Department of Labor and SEIU, a union representative made it into the first building visited by OSHA, but was turned away by PJS at OSHA’s subsequent stops. SEIU’s presence at PJS (and separately at the Philadelphia International Airport) prompted Fox’s Johnson to accuse the federal government of singing “Look for the union label,” (a charge he illustrated by singing the song himself); to dare the government to sue PJS to force the company to let in SEIU; and to warn of the government “putting their arm around” SEIU and “putting a hammer to businesses that have decided not to be union.”

But pro-union PJS workers contend that they’re the ones who were coerced when OSHA came to visit, and their company — though portrayed on “Fox and Friends” as a victim of mob-style pressure — is the one doing the actual coercing.

Parada, a three-year PJS employee, told Salon that the day her building was being inspected, management “just said that I should go home and not worry about not working, that they were going to pay me” for the rest of the shift. When she declined the offer to leave early, she alleged, management promised her “that everything will change” with existing safety issues, and told her “to not say [to OSHA] that we hadn’t received training, and to not say either we had problems with our hands because of the chemicals … They were saying lies.” In addition, charged Parada, a manager told employees that they would get fired if anything went wrong with the OSHA inspection.

 
See more stories tagged with: