A federal judge yesterday gave the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) permission to distribute leaflets at the Social Security Administration complex in Woodlawn.
The decision in U.S. District Court in Washington clears the way for the NTEU to resume its quest to bring 8,000 employees at the complex -- and 55,000 workers nationwide -- under its aegis.
"This ruling means we will have access to the sidewalk at Woodlawn, and we will use them," said Susan N. Holliday, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based union.
Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that NTEU had a constitutional right to try to organize the employees, most of whom are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees.
Judge Green said neither the American Federation of Government Employees nor the government can prevent the NTEU from distributing leaflets at the Woodlawn facility. It said the American Federation of Government Employees is not entitled to exclusive privileges to organize workers at the complex.
"Social Security Administration employees are the winners in this case," Robert M. Tobias, president of the Washington-based NTEU, said in a statement released after the ruling. "Now they can freely get information they can use to make a choice for the best union."
Officials of the SSA and AFGE could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Holliday said NTEU already represents some employees at SSA, but has been vying to expand its membership there by soliciting workers in more classifications, including claims and telephone service representatives.
NTEU is the collective bargaining organization for workers in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Customs Department and Internal Revenue Service.
The union filed a lawsuit against the SSA last September, charging it with violating the First Amendment by barring the union from handing out leaflets.
On Sept. 16, the GSA and SSA barred the union from passing out literature at Woodlawn and has since prevented distribution by denying leafleting permits, NTEU says.
The court victory overturns a decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which had ruled that the AFGE had exclusive rights to distribute union materials at the SSA complex.