In 2006, the corporate campaign came to Bego’s doorstep. SEIU coordinators began demonstrating outside various EMS accounts. They also sent letters to EMS clients condemning the company for “threatening, intimidating, interrogating and retaliating against janitors,” for participating in union activities, of which none of the allegations were true, Bego says.

Bego quickly drew up a rebuttal letter to his clients and hoped the SEIU would go away. They didn’t.

Soon SEIU organizers showed up to a golf tournament Bego was participating in, and lambasted the business owner in front of the crowd. They began to follow EMS employees in and out of their assigned workplaces, and in one incident, sent children to hand out union fliers that derided Bego and his company during Trick-or-Treat in his own neighborhood.

Other fliers distributed around the city routinely listed vague, unfair labor practices. One erroneous charge, according to Bego, claimed that EMS workers were forced to handle human remains in a university lab.

On another handbill, EMS accounts were compared to a “House of Horrors.” The flier alleged that EMS employees faced “unsafe working conditions, broken cleaning equipment,” and worked with “blood and dangerous chemicals.”

The union also claimed that EMS janitors were “living in poverty.”

The claims were untrue. And it was clear that the majority of EMS janitors weren’t interested in unionizing.

Bego points out that just 10 out of more than 400 EMS workers participated in the SEIU protests.

Daytime Supervisor Blaine Sechrest was approached by union organizers but says he and others ignored what they had to say.    
“[EMS] has always treated me fair,” says Sechrest, who has been with the company for 13 years. “It’s a good company. They have been doing this well without the union for this long, and I don’t think they need the union now.”

Despite his employees’ loyalty, Bego’s legal team fought the union against dozens of filed complaints with OSHA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the NLRB — nearly 40 charges in all — which only added fuel to SEIU’s campaign as EMS fell “under investigation.”

“I was going along running my business. But, I had made up my mind,” says Bego. “I wasn’t going to let them intimidate me.”

Bego took matters into his own hands when he purchased a full-page ad in the Indianapolis Star to defend EMS against SEIU claims and invite the union to initiate a secret ballot election. He then publicly urged the organization to “fish or cut bait.”

By the end, all of the charges filed by the SEIU were unfounded. Slowly the union began backing away.

“[BSCs] were afraid of the unions and the things that they were doing,” says Bego. “We fought through it.”

Bego is adamant that the SEIU’s tactics had little to do with janitor conditions and more to do with an organization’s attempt to collect more than half-a-million dollars in union dues.

“They’re dinosaurs,” Bego says pointedly. “When people are desperate, they do desperate things.”

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