MALDEN, Mass. (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against a Boston-area nonprofit, saying that employees were illegally fired for trying to unionize.

Human services agency Triangle Inc., dismissed three employees last August in a move that federal labor officials said was a summer-long effort to quash a union drive. Several employees of Triangle Inc. were trying to organize with SEIU Local 509, which represents human service workers and educators in Massachusetts.

Former employees Amy Banelis, Joseph DiVincenzo, and Jim Kane contended that CEO Coleman Nee, a former cabinet secretary under former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, took part in coercing employees with other Triangle officials to stop union activities.

DiVincenzo said that the desire to form a union was driven by "the need to provide a safe and fair work environment."

In court documents filed by SEIU Local 509, Banelis, DiVincenzo and Kane said that Nee told employees last June that if they supported the union, "they would be fired." Nee has denied this.

The director of human resources also was accused of documenting involvement in labor organizing in employees' performance reviews.

The NLRB issued the complaint on Friday and a hearing has been scheduled for June 12 in Boston. It said the dismissals were made "to discourage employees from engaging in these or other concerted activities."

Nee said Saturday the decision to cut the employees came as a result of budget reductions, not because of unionization. Triangle Inc. has until March 14 to respond to the complaint.

He said the organization was not anti-union, and that "three of the four employees were supervisors or managers who would be ineligible under federal law to even join a union." Nee said the company would prefer to "settle this matter" but have not "been given the opportunity."