By Jenny Blake
UCLA Daily Bruin Contributor
After both of their office directors were fired, 22 Los Angeles Greenpeace workers - the same ones who used to solicit pledges on Bruin Walk - found themselves locked out of their office and out of work the next day. Both former Greenpeace office directors Brande Jackson and Dan Binaei allege that their Jan. 21 termination by the directors of their parent organization - The Fund For Public Interest Research - was linked with their efforts to form a union.
Though he wouldn't comment specifically on personnel matters, FFPIR National Canvass Director Ed Johnson said Jackson and Binaei were fired because they were no longer qualified to run the office. "We never want to close an office if we don't have to," Johnson said. "We try to consider options and be as undisruptive as possible, but the reality was that we didn't have qualified people." Jackson said she and Binaei were told by Johnson and Ben Flamm, the regional canvass director, that they were fired because the FFPIR directors "had lost trust" in them to run the office.
Individual non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, CALPIRG and the Sierra Club hire FFPIR to help solicit donors, manage campaign efforts and aid with membership development. In the weeks before losing their jobs, Jackson and Binaei were in the process of forming a union to push for health benefits that weren't explicitly denied but that they said they hadn't yet received.
"(FFPIR) never denied health benefits," Binaei said. "It was just the bureaucracy to get them in a timely manner." "(FFPIR) was nearly completely unresponsive for the months that we inquired into the benefits that many of our staff were qualified for and promised upon their hiring," Jackson wrote in an e-mail dated Feb. 20. "Our only conclusion to the sudden closing of our office is that the FFPIR was practicing a form of 'progressive union busting.'"
Johnson said he could not comment on the Greenpeace employees' efforts to form a union or on policy related to specific compensation or health benefits, but said he is confident that FFPIR effectively carries out its policies and promised benefits. Jackson is working to persuade FFPIR directors to reconsider their decision to close the office. Though she has not spoken with them directly, she is contacting other groups involved with FFPIR. "(Closing the office) seemed like a pretty unnecessary step to take for an office that was doing that well," Jackson said. The L.A. Greenpeace office was the largest grossing office in the country, according to Jackson.
Offices close for a number of reasons, Johnson said. "Anytime we have to close an office, it's not an ideal situation," Johnson said. "It wouldn't surprise me if at some point in the future (the L.A. Greenpeace office) reopened, but I don't have an idea of when. It's not the first office we've closed, nor will it be the last."
The other terminated employees were offered a choice between working at another FFPIR office in Los Angeles or a two-week severance package, Johnson said. "We tried to take care of the employees and wanted them to have the opportunity to work with us elsewhere," Johnson said. "Understanding that not everyone could or would want to do that, we wanted to provide them with some cushion."
(Comment - Wow! Two weeks worth of non-union wages ought to pay the rent AND save the whales!!!!) http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/db/articles.asp?ID=18769