In recent years, Security Industry Specialists, Inc. (SIS) has been the target of a vicious “corporate campaign” mounted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU’s efforts started about six years ago as a straightforward attempt to pressure SIS’s employees to join its union.
“MPower Change” Latest Group To Make False Allegations About SIS Employees
A group calling itself MPower Change is the latest activist group attempting to mislead the public and the media about Muslim workers at SIS. On their website, they claim that SIS has “singled out” Muslim employees by asking them to sign waivers of their meal periods during Ramadan. They claim:
Muslim security workers at SIS have been singled out, asked to sign a waiver forfeiting their 30-minute lunch break during Ramadan. Observing your faith? That means you get less break time than your coworkers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In case this group is simply misinformed about how Ramadan and Washington law work, we’ll take this opportunity to enlighten them.
Ramadan “is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting.” Muslims observing Ramadan fast “from dawn until sunset,” and this means that they “refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids,” among other things. In Washington State, sunrise to sunset means fasting from approximately 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 pm at this time of year (June 16, 2017 is today’s date).
Washington law states that “No employee shall be required to work more than five consecutive hours without a meal period.” This means that an employee working a typical 8-hour shift must be offered a meal period no sooner than three hours after starting a shift, and no more than five hours after starting a shift.
However, federal law requires employers “to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business.”
How does this affect employees who wish to observe Ramadan? Here’s how. Security is a 24X7X365 business. At SIS, most hourly shifts are from 6:00 a.m. – 2:45 pm (Day Shift), 2:00 pm -10:45 pm (Swing Shift), and 10:00 pm – 6:45 a.m. (Grave Shift), with a 45 minute meal period. If SIS followed only Washington law and refused to grant requests for accommodations, an employee working Swing Shift would be required to take a meal period no later than 7:00 pm — during which time he or she could not eat due to fasting.
In 2014, a group of employees approached SIS and asked us to provide them with a reasonable accommodation: Allow them to waive the 5-hour meal period requirement under Washington law so that they could take their meal period when they would be allowed to eat, consistent with Ramadan. This seemed reasonable to us, so we created a simple form to help us track those who request this accommodation so that we will be able to get them a meal period at a time when they will be able to eat.
Contrary to what MPower asserts:
- Muslim employees are not “singled out.” No one is required to request or sign a waiver.
- Muslim employees do not get fewer breaks than their co-workers. The waiver itself requires employees to acknowledge that they understand: “I will still be required to take my lunch period prior to the conclusion of my scheduled shift.”
- The waiver was created so that SIS could document such requests, and better track which employees requested a late or early meal period, so that we could provide the requested accommodation. We have over 800 employees in Washington and hundreds working each shift.
The SEIU and groups like MPower Change have been trying to drive a wedge between SIS and its employees for years. It’s unfortunate that they have embarked on their disinformation campaigns and are using Muslim workers and the media as pawns in their game.
The Facts Regarding SIS and Prayer Breaks
Recently, several media outlets featured stories in which they described allegations made by the SEIU concerning Security Industry Specialists, Inc. (“SIS”) and two SIS employees, Betiel Desta and Abdinasir Elmi. The SEIU alleges that SIS retaliated and/or discriminated against these two individuals by either reducing their hours or removing them from scheduled shifts after they participated in various “protests.” Here are the facts and the supporting documentation:
This charge is vague as to exactly what the complainants claim SIS retaliated against them for doing. However, in various media outlets, the SEIU claims SIS retaliated against the three individuals listed on page two of the charge by reducing their hours following a “pray-in” held on March 31, 2017. (E.g., “Documents obtained by ThinkProgress show that three SIS employees filed charges this week with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the company retaliated against them earlier this month for voicing frustration with company policies. . . . Two other Muslim SIS employees listed on the filing also claim their hours were suddenly cut in the wake of the protests.”)
The second page of the charge lists the employees against whom SIS supposedly retaliated or imposed discipline:
- Elmi Mohamad
- Betiel Desta
- Mohad Mohammed
Two of the individuals listed on the charge, Elmi Mohamad and Mohad Mohammed, do not work for SIS now and have never worked for SIS. This is simply a fabrication made up by the SEIU.
The third individual is Betiel Desta. Ms. Desta was a part-time employee at SIS. Here are her average hours for the first quarter (13 weeks) of 2017, leading up to the March 31, 2017 “pray-in”:
- 12.96 — Betiel Desta, Average Hours per Week, 1/1/17 to 3/31/17
The “pray-in” was held on March 31, 2017, after which SIS supposedly retaliated against Ms. Desta for participating. Here are Ms. Desta’s average weekly hours after the supposed retaliation through April 13, 2017, the date the SEIU filed its charge:
- 16.13 — Betiel Desta, Average Hours per Week, 4/1/17 to 4/13/17
This Excel sheet contains each of Ms. Desta’s shifts in 2017, with summaries in the far right column and at the bottom. The rest was generated from SIS’s timekeeping system. Ms. Desta’s hours actually increased by about 25% after the “pray-in” through the date the charge was filed.
In summary, the SEIU’s charge is nonsense. Two of the three individuals listed in the charge have never worked for SIS. The third individual saw an increase in hours following the “pray-in” protests.
In this charge, the SEIU alleges that SIS “discriminated” against unnamed individuals “on or about May 2,” after they showed up at SIS headquarters on May 1, 2017 to protest.” A separate letter from the NLRB relating to this charge seeks information pertaining to SIS employees Abdinasir Elmi and Betiel Desta, so it is safe to assume these are the unnamed individuals referred to in the charge.
These charges, too, are false. SIS’s chief difficulty with these two individuals has been getting them to actually show up for work.
Security is a 24x7x365 business. When our personnel call off (or simply fail to show up without calling in), we generally have to “hold over” employees from a shift or “early in” someone from an upcoming shift. Among other things, excessive absences cause:
Chaos for our schedulers who have to scramble to fill the vacant shifts
- Hardship for individuals who are asked to start work early or stay past their scheduled shift, turning an 8-hour shift into a 12- or 16-hour shift
- Unbillable overtime, since these absences generally must be filled by someone who will be pushed past their normal 40-hour workweek
- Gaps in the security we provide to our clients when a no-call/no-show can’t be filled
Unexcused absences also demonstrate a disrespect for your job and your fellow employees.
Over the past two months, Mr. Elmi has had numerous attendance issues. Here is a summary:
- On May 1, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi was a “no call, no show” for his 1400-2245 hours shift
- On April 30, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi was a “no call, no show” for his 1400-2245 hours shift
- On April 25, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi called off at 1341 hours for his April 25, 2017 shift scheduled at 1400 -2200 hours citing bereavement (excused pending documentation, which has not been presented)
- On April 24, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi called off at 1341 hours for his April 24, 2017 shift scheduled at 1400 -2200 hours citing bereavement (excused pending documentation, which has not been presented)
- On April 23, 2017, at 0617 hours Abdinasir Elmi called off for his April 23, 2017 shift scheduled at 1400 -2200 hours citing family emergency
- On April 22, 2017, at 0551 hours Abdinasir Elmi called off for his April 22, 2017 shift scheduled at 1400 -2200 hours citing family emergency
- On April 21, 2017, at 1030 hours Abdinasir Elmi called off for his 1400 -2200 hours shift citing family emergency
- On April 16, 2017, at 0448 hours Abdinasir Elmi called off for his 1400 -2200 hours shift citing family emergency
- March 27, 2017, at 0520 hours Abdinasir Elmi called off for his 1400 -2200 hours shift citing “safe/sick.” Abdinasir Elmi did not have enough paid time off (PTO) to cover this absence in its entirety, therefore it was marked as unexcused
- On March 19, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi arrived late at 1409 hours for his 1400 to 2245 shift, stating the reason was traffic
- On March 3, 2017, Abdinasir Elmi called off late at 1008 hours for his 1400 to 2245 shift, citing a family emergency
We removed Mr. Elmi from his scheduled shift on May 2, 2017, due to his excessive and repeated absences over the preceding two months, which increased significantly at the end of April.
It should be noted that Mr. Elmi alleges SIS retaliated against him because he “protested” at SIS offices shortly after noon on May 1, 2017. He was well enough to protest that day but, as indicated, he was not capable of showing up for his 2:00 pm shift later that day – and not able to give notice in advance that he would not attend.
SIS employee Betiel Desta also alleges that she was removed from her schedule “on or about May 2, 2017” for participating in a protest at SIS’s offices on May 1, 2017. Here are the facts:
Ms. Desta was a part-time SIS employee who normally works Mondays and Thursdays, and occasionally picks up extra shifts. The allegation is that she was removed from her shift “on or about” May 2, 2017.
The truth is that she was never scheduled to work on May 2, 2017, which is a Tuesday. During the week of April 30, Ms. Desta would normally be scheduled to work on Monday, May 1, 2017 and Thursday, May 4, 2017. SIS’s schedules need to be published well in advance so that employees know when they will be expected to work. The schedule for May was loaded in our scheduling tool between April 25 -28, 2017.
Every employee assigned to Amazon (including Ms. Desta) has access to the scheduling tool to see when he or she is scheduled to work. Ms. Desta, therefore, should have know that she was never scheduled to work on May 2, 2017.
Indeed, Ms. Desta has not worked for SIS during the month of May. Here are the details:
- Monday, May 1, 2017: Betiel Desta was scheduled to work. However, on April 26, 2017, she requested a “shift swap” with another employee so that she could have the day off (presumably to participate in the “May Day” protests.) The swap was confirmed, so Ms. Desta was taken off the schedule for May 1. Here is a screen shot of the shift swap and other details about our recent efforts to schedule Ms. Desta.
- Tuesday, May 2, 2017: The SEIU alleges that Ms. Desta was removed from a schedule. On that day, Ms. Desta was not scheduled to work, as her normal work days are Mondays and Thursdays
- Wednesday, May 3, 2017: SIS Supervisor Daniel Quick telephoned Betiel Desta to confirm that she was scheduled to work May 4, 2017.
- Thursday, May 4, 2017: Betiel Desta did not show up for her scheduled 2:00 pm shift.
- Friday, May 5, 2017: SIS Supervisor Daniel Quick confirmed with Ms. Desta that her normal schedule is to work Mondays and Thursdays.
- Monday, May 8, 2017: Betiel Desta sends an email one hour before her scheduled 2:00 pm shift stating that she will not be showing up for her shift because she is meeting with the NLRB.
- Thursday, May 11, 2017: Betiel Desta arrived for her shift seven minutes late. She immediately reported that she was not feeling well and left without clocking in.
- Monday, May 15, 2017: Betiel Desta was a “no call, no show.” SIS management sent an email to check on her welfare but has not received a response.
- Thursday, May 18, 2017: Betiel Desta was a “no call, no show” and did not respond to SIS’s efforts to contact her.
- Monday, May 22, 2017: Betiel Desta again was a “no call, no show.”
In summary, the SEIU’s allegations of retaliation against Mr. Elmi and Ms. Desta are fabricated. SIS’s chief difficulty with these two employees has been getting them to actually show up when we schedule them to work.
Prayer During Work Breaks
The SEIU-driven issue that these two employees claim to be advancing is prayer during work breaks. SIS’s policy on this issue has never wavered: Employees are welcome to use their breaks as they please, including duty-free meal periods and 10-minute rest breaks. SIS doesn’t tell employees that they can play chess, surf their iPhone, call their colleagues, check their emails or pray. We don’t prescribe what employees can do on their breaks because it is their own time.
The issue of prayer does not involve whether SIS allows it, as we would never forbid it. Instead, it involves access to space that an employee deems suitable for prayer.
On this issue, several issues should be noted. First, the space at issue is not SIS’s space. SIS provides security for clients and client spaces. SIS is grateful when clients allow SIS employees to use their space for activities, including prayer. Amazon has always done so. Even in articles fueled by the SEIU, SIS employees assigned to Amazon have said that they used unoccupied rooms at Amazon to pray (e.g., Essag Hassan “used unused rooms to pray;” Ismahan Ismael “would normally use an empty room, such as an unused conference room to pray”).
Second, Amazon only began introducing dedicated prayer rooms earlier this year, and SIS commends them for doing so. SIS provides security for numerous Fortune 500 companies and Amazon has taken the lead in providing this accommodation.
Third, Amazon is growing quickly. SIS secures office space, but also construction space and warehouse space, and some employees may not find suitable prayer space in these environments. There may be occasions when an employee cannot find space that he or she deems suitable for prayer. Likewise, prayer rooms do not exist in every building, and conference rooms tend to be occupied during busy workdays. On a 10-minute rest break, it will not always be possible to find a building with suitable space. These are just practical realities.
Fourth, both Ms. Desta and Mr. Elmi again appeared at SIS’s offices on May 3, 2017 – unannounced and with 15-20 SEIU members in tow – and demanded a meeting. We accommodated and our HR representatives set a meeting with each for May 4, 2017 at 10:00 so that they could discuss their issues. Both agreed to the meeting. Consistent with their recent attendance record, however, neither appeared at the agreed upon time.
On issues like these, SIS recently distributed a memo to all Amazon-assigned employees. In the memo:
- SIS reiterated its long-standing policy that employees can do whatever they choose on their rest breaks and meal periods.
- SIS formally announced that Amazon has given employees access to the new prayer rooms. (For a month prior, SIS had already communicated this to employees during daily shift briefings.)
- SIS asked that its employees understand some of the practicalities associated with breaks – not everyone can get a break at the same time, or at a precise time of their choosing.
- SIS posted the list of existing Prayer Rooms provided by Amazon to assist employees in finding and using spaces available to them.
A copy of that memo can be found here.
In summary, the SEIU’s allegations of retaliation and discrimination are nonsense. The two employees they have used to advance their allegations simply stopped showing up for work. As to prayer during breaks, it has always been permitted. The only “new” issue here is that Amazon recently established dedicated prayer rooms and confirmed that SIS employees may use them.
The SEIU’s Organizing Effort Against SIS
As part of its traditional organizing effort, the SEIU engaged in an array of harassing tactics. These included:
- Telephone calls to employee homes at odd hours of the night
- Showing up uninvited at employees’ homes with several union representatives, who then demanded to speak to the SIS employee to get him or her to sign a union authorization card, and
- A campaign of lies and deceit against SIS.
Employees complained – and one employee quit the company to avoid the harassment.
The SEIU’s traditional organizing campaign utterly failed. SIS employees understand that they are some of the highest paid security officers in the industry, with benefit packages that exceed those offered by competitors. The SEIU offered nothing to improve their station. After three years, not one SIS employee ever voted to join the SEIU.
The SEIU’s Corporate Campaign Against SIS
About two years ago, after zero success in the traditional campaign, the SEIU shifted to its current “corporate campaign” against SIS. According toThe U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “a ‘corporate campaign’ is an attack by a union on the ability of a company or industry to conduct its routine business. The objective is to generate so much pressure on the ‘target’ that it will give in to union demands.”
The SEIU was unable to persuade SIS employees to voluntarily join its union. So, it now attempts to cause SIS’s customers to pressure SIS to agree to be unionized. It does so through leafleting outside customers’ stores, by disrupting shareholders meetings, by attempting to contact customers’ employees, and by enlisting the support of members of the media to write one-sided “hit” pieces – invariably based on lies and half truths fed to reporters by the SEIU.
One frequently misunderstood aspect of a corporate campaign is that unions are unfettered by traditional rules that govern most citizens’ conduct – they lie, distort and smear with little fear of the consequences. Why? Because unions like the SEIU actually want to be sued by their target. Once the target files a lawsuit, the SEIU can use the civil discovery process in the lawsuit to extract significant additional documents and information from the target. After rummaging through the target’s files, the SEIU issues additional lies, distortions and smears to try to pressure the target – essentially using the lawsuit against the target.
The SEIU’s Corporate Campaign Against SIS Rests on Deceit
The SEIU’s corporate campaign against SIS has relied on a litany of smears, distortions and outright lies. Many of them are chronicled here, with documentation supporting the truth linked right next to the SEIU’s fabrications. Generally, the SEIU issues these allegations with the apparent hope that they will be picked up by the media before SIS has a chance to respond with the truth. These ambush tactics may work in the short run, but the truth always wins in the long run.
Disgruntled Former Employees
Likewise, the SEIU has gone out of its way to attempt to find disgruntled former SIS employees, but invariably the union has relied on half-truths and false allegations in attempting to smear SIS. For example:
- The SEIU habitually asserts that former SIS employee Manny Cardenas wanted to become a full-time employee but SIS would not give him the hours so that he could do so. The truth is that Mr. Cardenas was a full-time student and told SIS he could only work weekends shortly after taking a job with SIS.
- In this article, the SEIU makes the claim by former SIS employee Hamdi Mohamed: “the real reason they fired me is because as a Black Muslim woman at SIS, I was supposed to be quiet.” And that: “They give you eight hours of training then throw you into the field”. The truth is that SIS provided Hamdi with 20 hours of training during her short time with the company, and her employment was terminated after repeatedly being late to her shift and/or failing to show up at all.
- The SEIU even has relied on discredited allegations of a former SIS employee, who claimed SIS discriminated against him. The former employee’s claims were completely and entirely rejected by a jury in a trial the SEIU helped engineer and from which the SEIU ultimately was barred from participating!
- In 2014 the SEIU began trotting out former SIS employee Richell Banks, who now claims she was terminated because of a sick daughter. The truth is that Ms. Banks was terminated after 17 separate instances where she either did not show up for work or was late. After each of six separate written warnings regarding her attendance problems, Ms. Banks was given the opportunity to agree or disagree with the discipline. She agreed each time and never once claimed a sick daughter was the cause of her attendance problem.
The former employees’ accounts are documented here, together with the facts that put the lie to the SEIU’s allegations.
More recently, the SEIU has settled on several ironic themes in an attempt to disparage SIS. In particular the SEIU accuses SIS of so-called “Wage Theft” and “Excessive Force and Assault Against The General Public.”
As support for its “Wage Theft” allegations, the SEIU points to two lawsuits, a radio segment, and eleven administrative claims filed against SIS over the span of 14 years. Setting aside the fact that not one of these matters resulted in a judgment against SIS and many were abandoned or dismissed by the parties who filed them,or dismissed by the administrative agency in charge, the SEIU’s “Wage Theft” allegations are ironic because they come from a union that has a long and well-chronicled history of Wage Theft. This ranges from:
- Embezzlement of union dues (wages deducted from employee pay checks)
- Identity theft practiced against its own members
- Illegal deduction of millions of union dues from union members and non-members, and
- Many other financial misdealings
But don’t take our word for it. Some specific examples are chronicled here. And, in reading these real life verdicts and convictions, please bear in mind the contrast: The SEIU’s campaign against SIS relies on unsubstantiated allegations; many of these are criminal convictions and civil findings against the SEIU. In other words, facts not just baseless claims.
Likewise, the SEIU points to five lawsuits over the past 10 years to support its allegation that SIS has a history of “Excessive Force and Assault Against The General Public.” Again, bear in mind that these are just allegations – the SEIU cannot point to a single conviction or civil judgment against SIS, because there are none.
As before, the irony here is that the SEIU has a history of violent behavior, much of which has been documented with video evidence, including assault and battery against those who disagree with official SEIU propaganda and positions. And, once again, there is no need to take our word for it. There are many examples, some of which we’ve included here.
The Truth is on SIS’s Side
For the past five years, the SEIU has undertaken an aggressive campaign of lies and distortions against SIS. For its part, SIS rarely has responded. This web page represents our effort to give our employees, the media and the public the other side of the story – the side the SEIU does not want you to know about.
When dealing with the SEIU, SIS has learned that it is important to insist on facts rather than taking SEIU allegations at face value. At a minimum, employees and the public are entitled to know the truth before deciding whether to believe this union’s claims.