During a worker dispute or union action, building service contractors can expect some negative press. One large cleaning and facility-management contractor, Boston-based UNICCO, is fighting back with a pair of Web sites.

The company’s workers who clean the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus have gone on strike (see news item) to protest what they claim are poor safety conditions, lack of health benefits and low wages. These workers are targets of an organization effort by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a Web site from the union’s point of view.

While union-sponsored strike sites are nothing new, UNICCO’s response is. The company set up two Web sites — Unicco Truth, and the strike-specific University Truth. Both UNICCO’s and SEIU’s sites offer positive reports of the sponsoring organization’s efforts, as well as rebuttals and charges.

For instance, Yes We Cane reports that a UNICCO employee in Boston fell to his death, and another was seriously injured, in spite of previous Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) orders of safety improvements, implying that UNICCO disregards safety. Unicco Truth counters: “We find it disdainful that the SEIU would use these tragic circumstances as an organizing tool.” Further, UNICCO says the report referenced by SEIU came before the official OSHA investigation of the incident, and does not reflect the findings of fact in the case.

Watch these Web sites for developments in the Miami strike and other labor disputes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the main research division for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed an interactive Web site to help employers learn about and gauge the capacity and risk of chemicals, bloodborne pathogens and other harmful substances to be absorbed through the skin. Contractors can use this site in conjunction with material safety data sheets and other resources to develop their safety programs.

The site features an absorption calculator, alerts and publications.

Need new Equipment? Check out our online Buyers Guide, at CLEANLINK®. The newly updated version includes information from our sister publication Sanitary Maintenance’s printed 50th Annual Buyers Guide.

Blackberry users can breathe a little easier. A patent lawsuit that threatened to take the popular communications devices off the market (see Tech Talk., in the Feb. 2006 issue) has been settled.

Under the settlement, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) of Waterloo, Ontario, will pay patent-holder NTP, Nashua, N.H., $612 million dollars. RIM will continue offering BlackBerry services, uninterrupted in North America, with a perpetual license from NTP.

In an ironic twist, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is investigating several of NTP’s patents, and may rule them invalid, according to news reports. Should this occur, it would not change the terms of the settlement.


For decades, users had a choice — bring obsolete computers and other electronics to recycling centers (and often pay a fee), or dispose of the devices through regular trash collection and risk toxic substances leaching into the environment.

Now, however, at least in Maine, the landfill route is no longer an option. It’s been illegal since 2001 for businesses and schools to dispose of computers and televisions through trash collection, but since the beginning of this year, it’s also against the law for homeowners and those with home offices to do the same. So, home-based BSCs in Maine will now have to donate or recycle their old PCs. Click here for more information.