SEIU fights dirty against union activists in health care

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture
SEIU fights dirty against union activists in health care

This is not a piece from the Onion, for anyone who might be confused.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/19/californias-health-care-wars/

Issues Pages: 
kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The idea that elected union officials are only answerable to national leaders takes the "business union" model to new lows.

Quote:

SEIU’s goal, then, was not just to wreck UHW (which it now has done), but to punish its leaders and staff. In the extraordinary trial in Federal Court, 28 NUHW leaders were sued for “damages” – SEIU, in a civil lawsuit, demanded of the defendants $25 million. It was astonishing, an assault on a group of working class organizers, all the more vicious given lifestyles of SEIU’s top leaders (Regan: salary $300,000 plus), not to mention their millionaire lawyers. It charged that these people, all union men and women, had “conspired” (for “personal power and profit”) – for years and all on “company” time – to leave SEIU and found a new union. It claimed they were responsible for an array of alleged offences including alleged illegal actions. They were charged with  “theft, violence, and sabotage;” they “left contacts open,” “neglected grievances,” were guilty of “fiduciary malfeasance.”

But all these were dropped, and the pursuit of damages was reduced to $4 million. The case essentially came down to the charge that the UHW leaders were working – for two or three weeks in January, 2009 – against SEIU while still on the payroll. The judge, William Alsup, clearly agreed and the he instructed the jury to fix awards accordingly.

The jury – which included not a single union member – found against sixteen of the defendants, all former UHW leaders and held them liable for $725,000. NUHW was also found liable for $725,000, though this too was extraordinary; NUHW had no “fiduciary duty” to SEIU and did not exist in the weeks at issue. $1.5 million, nevertheless, was awarded, a far cry from the $25 million first demanded, but cruel punishment for sixteen working men and women.

The appeal was argued before a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Oakland attorney Dan Siegel contested the awards in the 2010 trial. Siegel challenged the basis for these findings, focusing on the alleged “fiduciary malfeasance.” –the charge  that the UHW leaders had defied “fiduciary obligations” to SEIU leadership. In addition, he argued that the judge had erred in his instructions to the jury. In the 2010 trial, Alsup had repeatedly hectored the jurors, explaining at one point that this case – this conflict between a national union and its members in a local – was analogous to a dispute between the Bank of America and a branch office. A sort of corporate affair, an internal conflict within a corporation. He prohibited any discussion of any of the issues in the dispute within SEIU. No one on the jury was a union member.

Siegel insisted that the then elected officers and leaders of UHW had the right to contest the trusteeship, including the right to oppose the SEIU national leadership’s forced transfer of 65,000 long-term care workers from UHW to another local California, the key issue at the time, the one that ultimately was decisive in SEIU’s case for the trusteeship. The then UHW leadership had insisted that these workers had the right to decide the local of their choice – including the right to vote on the transfer.

Siegel argued that these officers’ responsibilities, then, were not simply to the SEIU‘s national leadership, led at the time by Andy Stern, but also to the members of UHW (including the 65,000), the people who had elected them, who determined the local union’s policies and paid the bills. Indeed they had an obligation to abide by the member’s decisions.