Service union places local janitors unit in receivership, citing leadership split

The local union that has been conducting the militant Justice for Janitors organizing campaign in the District for more than a decade was placed under trusteeship yesterday by the Service Employees International Union, which cited a leadership division that had paralyzed the local's operations.

The political division was over the issue of whether the union should concentrate its efforts on servicing the membership or organizing new members, said Joni Ketter, spokeswoman for the national union.

"There's no financial mismanagement involved at all," Ketter said.

The split in Local 82's 17-member executive board "had really gotten to the point where the leadership was at a complete standstill," she said.

"The trusteeship of Local 82 is a necessary step that will result in Local 82 becoming a more effective union for janitors in Washington. There will be no interruption of organizing or member representation as a result of the trusteeship," SEIU President Andrew L. Stern said in a statement announcing the takeover.

Local 82 represents more than 4,000 janitors who clean federal and commercial buildings in the District. The membership is almost equally divided between the private and federal sectors.

The local gained national attention under former SEIU president John J. Sweeney for its militant organizing tactics, including noisy demonstrations at downtown office buildings and blocking bridges into Washington during rush hours.

Stern, who was elected SEIU president after Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO, earlier this year declared a cease-fire in the demonstrations with a pledge to try to work with the District's commercial building owners targeted by the union.

Earlier this month, Stern said he believed the union was making progress in the talks.

Ketter insisted yesterday that the trusteeship would not have an adverse impact on those talks.

SEIU Vice President Robert Moore was appointed trustee in charge of Local 82, and Valerie Long, of the union's national staff, was named deputy trustee.

Jay Hessey, executive director of the local, will remain in that position, according to Ketter.

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Washington Post
Publication Date: 
August 22, 1997