California Terminex Workers Survive Poisonous Anti-Union Campaign

Victory for Pest Control Unit First of Its Kind for Local 9586

Despite anti-union tactics that included a management "ride along" on election day, a group of Los Angeles-area Terminex sales, clerical and technical workers voted Oct. 28 to join CWA Local 9586.

"It was wonderful to see their faces when the votes were counted," said Local Vice President Yvonne Melton, who worked on the campaign with CWA organizer Victor Serrano. "These are good people, very nice, respectful people who just want the right to be able to have a say in changes at work."

Overtime hours and compensation have been a major issue. In September, Terminex agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit over unpaid overtime for trainees in California from 2004 to 2010. Terminex tried to argue in court that termite inspections are sales activities exempt from overtime. A federal judge disagreed.

Even as the court case proceeded, Melton said the newly organized technicians were working 12 to 14 hour days without breaks. "One of them told me he'd go in on Sundays just to catch up on his other work, without pay," she said.

Fed-up workers approached Local 9586 earlier this year. Their commercial unit had been part of a larger group of Terminex workers who tried to organize with CWA three years ago but lost the election.

As soon as the new drive began, Terminex unleashed an anti-union campaign, with captive audience and one-on-one meetings, threats of discipline and an "anti-committee" that workers could join to oppose the union.

The result of the company's tactics was a close vote, 20-19. Melton said it would have been 21-19, but one "yes" voter was delayed. "He was held up by the company," she said. "They did a ride-along to discourage the vote, and he got there a half-hour late."

Other California locals have also been busy adding new CWA members. Local 9423 in San Jose recently organized 24 workers at Telecom Networking Systems, Inc., and Local 9003 in Los Angeles organized a unit of six employees of the California United Homecare Workers Union, SEIU/AFSCME Local 4034. Also, after a year of legal wrangling and outreach, UPTE-CWA Local 9119 has gotten the University of California to agree that 165 dietitians can be added to the health care bargaining unit.