ORT America Accused In Labor Battle

By Anthony Weiss

Published May 29, 2008, issue of June 06, 2008.
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The American branch of ORT, the massive international vocational-training organization, is being accused by its employees of union busting and of negotiating in bad faith.

Union members said that their main complaint is a so-called “management rights” provision that would allow ORT America to fire union employees without a grievance procedure and to replace them with nonunion workers. They also protest that ORT America’s management is insisting that, under the new contract, employees take a personal, vacation or sick day for Jewish holidays when the office is closed, even if they are not Jewish.

ORT America defended its position.

“ORT America feels that it has negotiated in good faith and made a fair final offer to the union, an offer that is fair to the employees as well as our fiduciary responsibilities to ORT America,”” ORT America spokeswoman Sarina Roffé said.

Roffé said that the sides had agreed to a June mediation, but ORT employee Victoria Mitchell, president of the union’s district council, said that no date had been set and that ORT America’s lawyer maintained that the organization would not change its offer.

“We have been trying to negotiate in good faith with ORT America,” Mitchell said. “Management wanted to boycott and destroy the union by putting in this management-rights clause that doesn’t give the union any leeway to negotiate.”

ORT employees are members of the DC 1707 branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The local union was originally founded in 1932 by Jewish communal employees as the Association of Federation Workers.

The workers are planning a demonstration outside ORT’s downtown Manhattan offices for Friday, May 30. Mitchell said that regardless of how the negotiations progress, she would not call for a strike or any action that would harm ORT America’s mission.

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