The bitter ongoing fight between the national leadership of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the former leadership of a SEIU Oakland, California, health care workers local has taken an even nastier turn.
Early this year, SEIU, under the leadership of Andy Stern, forced a merger between the Oakland health care local, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), and a Los Angeles-area local where a major corruption scandal broke last year -- leading that local's chief, Stern ally Tyrone Freeman, to resign.
In response to the Stern-led SEIU bullying, UHW president Sal Rosselli broke with SEIU and formed a new union, the National Union of United Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Since its founding, NUHW has tried to attract workers disgruntled with SEIU, which has fought back, hard. Last Friday, November 6, NUHW filed a complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board, alleging voter intimidation and vote tampering by SEIU representatives in a June decertification election, reports, The Wall Street Journal.
The allegations are ugly. As the Journal's Matthew Kaminski further explains:
The NUHW immediately called for a re-run of the election, challenging voting irregularities. The two unions have traded accusations since. But now, Carlos Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador who was on the SEIU's staff during the campaign, has come forward—so he says—to blow the whistle on his employer. Mr. Martinez went door-to-door canvassing the home-care workers during the 15-day election. Like him, many of them are native Spanish speakers; some are illiterate.
... Mr. Martinez says he was instructed by superiors to tell the workers that if they voted against the SEIU, they could lose their medical benefits, see their green cards or citizenship revoked and possibly be deported. He says he and other staffers were also told to pressure voters to spoil ballots that had been filled out for the NUHW. In other instances he filled ballots out for them. He says he even took some to the post office, as did other SEIU campaign workers.
All of these actions, if true, are a violation of state or federal laws governing union elections. In all, he adds, he visited 550 homes. "We scared people. We took the secret ballot away from these people," he says. "It was wrong."
SEIU has denied these allegations. SEIU needs to make its case, but its own recent history of trying to intimidate opponents will make doing so very difficult before any fair-minded audience.
For more on SEIU, see here.