In an expose published last week in the New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse profiles several UNITE HERE union organizers who claim that union bosses demanded they reveal intimate details of their personal lives — including whether or not they have even been sexually abused — and then collected this sensitive information and shared it with other union staff and organizers in a disturbing process known as "pink-sheeting."

The union organizers’ accounts of what they claim is a widespread problem within UNITE HERE are simply horrifying and speak for themselves:

“It’s extremely cultlike and extremely manipulative,” said Amelia Frank-Vitale, a Yale graduate and former hotel union organizer who said these practices drove her to see a therapist.

“This information is extremely personal,” said Matthew Edwards, an organizer who had disclosed that he was from a broken home and was overweight when young. “It is catalogued and shared throughout the whole organizing department.”

“I wanted to change conditions at my workplace,” Maria said. “I was ready to fight for respect for workers. But this entire thing felt like a total lack of respect. I quit the union because I felt this was psychological abuse.”

The full article has many more accounts, and it’s a must-read for those concerned with the lack of accountability within the union hierarchy.   The union organizers claim that their supervisors relied on "pink-sheeting" to ensure the organizers remained loyal to the union bosses and never questioned their authority or instructions. However one feels about unions in general, everyone should agree that these tactics are an affront to basic human decency and should have no place in the workplace.

The comments section contains several replies from Times readers claiming to be current or former  union staffers or organizers backing up the veracity of the accounts in the article.  One commenter claims to have heard the real goal of pink-sheeting "is to expunge the staffer of middle-class values."  It’s understandable to question the accounts of anonymous commenters, but these current and former organizers deserve to be heard for coming out against these outrageous union boss practices.

Of course, while ignored by the notoriously pro-forced unionism Times, the article raises more fundamental questions, including:

  • If this is how union bosses treat organizers, how can union bosses be trusted to "represent" rank-and-file workers who vocalize opposition to unionization?
  • And perhaps most timely: With such horrific tactics continuing to come to light, why are so many politicians still intent on handing union bosses even more special privileges?

Posted on Nov 20, 2009 in Blog