NLRB Issues Complaint Against SOSi

Rules company illegally misclassified workers; engaged in retaliation

Following a lengthy investigation into more than a dozen charges of illegal activity, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal complaint on May 31 against SOS International, a federal contractor that provides language-interpreting services for immigration courts.

The complaint, filed by the NLRB’s LA Region, seeks an order from the full board instructing the company to immediately reclassify the interpreters as employees rather than “independent contractors.” The misclassification constitutes an unfair labor practice intended to deprive them of their labor rights, Regional Director William B. Cowen wrote.

The NLRB also demanded reinstatement with back pay for several interpreters SOSi fired in retaliation for their union organizing efforts.

Union attorneys said the complaint has wide implications for the labor movement because employers in many industries misclassify workers as freelancers and contractors to avoid the cost of hiring regular workers.

SOSi workers are continuing their organizing effort with support from the NewsGuild-CWA and the Pacific Media Workers Guild (Local 39521). If the campaign is successful, hundreds of immigration interpreters would be eligible to collectively bargain over the terms and conditions of their employment. The NewsGuild-CWA currently represents interpreters at courts in California and Illinois and at a hospital in Minnesota.

Violations by SOSi management include improper interrogation of employees about their organizing activities, surveillance of union activists, threats of legal action, cancellation or threats of cancelling work assignments, and rules against union communications and other activities in support of organizing.

The NewsGuild-CWA and Pacific Media Workers Guild issued a statement praising the action. “The union will not let up until justice is served and the individuals who suffered the discrimination get their pay and jobs restored.”

A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Aug. 21.