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Social services agency denies trying to disrupt employees’ union campaign

Leaders of a Malden nonprofit accused of harassing and retaliating against employees amid a union drive pushed back against the federal allegations Wednesday, arguing their internal directives to employees are being mischaracterized.

Triangle Inc. officials said they vehemently deny allegations leveled in a National Labor Relations Board complaint that they orchestrated a monthslong campaign of harassment, surveillance, and coercion in an attempt to quash union organizing.

The nonprofit, headed by Coleman Nee, the state’s former secretary of veterans’ services, issued a blanket response to a series of allegations. One of the more explosive charges was that Nee told employees “they could be fired” if they supported the unionization effort.

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The allegations “mischaracterize communications that were lawfully made to Triangle supervisors and managers that the supervisors and managers should remain neutral during a union organizing campaign,” the nonprofit’s lawyers wrote in a four-page response.

It was delivered Wednesday to the NLRB.

“Triangle vehemently denies it has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees,” the attorneys wrote, adding that managers have “repeatedly informed employees that it is the employees’ choice whether or not to unionize and that Triangle is neutral.”

Triangle’s response, which was due Wednesday, marked the next step in a process that could land the nonprofit before an administrative law judge. A hearing is set for June, though NLRB officials have said that the agency urges parties in a conflict to try to reach a settlement.

The nonprofit’s officials have said they prefer to “amicably resolve the dispute.”

The NLRB’s decision to issue the complaint was rare. Of the nearly 20,000 unfair-labor allegations filed with the board last fiscal year, only about 6.5 percent led to formal complaints.

Federal officials accused Triangle’s director of human resources of repeatedly harassing employees, demanding that they obtain their union authorization forms from her.

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Other executives allegedly documented in employees’ performance reviews whether they were speaking to others about unionizing.

Triangle denies the charges.

Officers of the union SEIU Local 509 brought the original allegations to the NLRB in August, after four employees complained they had been fired after helping to organize the union drive.

Triangle contends they were “laid off” for “financial and operational reasons.”

Union officials say management’s efforts have created a “chilling effect” on labor organizing.

Established in 1971, Triangle had more than 3,900 people with disabilities enrolled in various programs and services in fiscal 2017, when it had $10.2 million in revenue and $10.15 million in expenses, according to its latest annual report.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on twitter at @mattpstout.