The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been in a struggle with its sister union, the United Healthcare Workers (UHW), for quite some time over the eventual disbanding of the UHW and its absorption into the larger SEIU based in Washington D.C. Needless to say, the local folks of the UHW in California are not pleased to lose their local control of their own union affairs to the far off Washington offices of the SEIU.
The clash has been growing increasingly heated with UHW officials speaking out in dismay at the combined unions yearly convention in Puerto Rico last year after which both sides began to file lawsuits against each other for various offenses real and imagined. It’s a real donnybrook and this week the situation took one more step toward vitriol and turmoil.
Now it seems as if the SEIU has hired off-duty policemen to hang around outside the UHW’s Oakland offices photographing members coming and going and engaging in harassing comments and behavior.
Around 7:00AM, staff and members confronted suspicious men outside the United Healthcare Workers office, near Broadway on Thomas L. Berkeley Way in Oakland. When UHW staff asked the men what they were doing, they claimed it was nothing to do with the union and that it was no one’s business who they were.
Members coming into the office began complaining to staff that they were being watched and photographed outside. UHW staff again confronted the men and asked them to stop photographing because it was making members uncomfortable. The men refused, so UHW staff called the police.
While waiting for police to arrive, the surveillance got more aggressive, with a man between the parking lot and the back entrance getting closer and closer to members while photographing them.
Worse, when UHW members called the local police to come and confront the harassers, they refused to interfere in the dispute reportedly because the harassers were cops themselves.
When uniformed police arrived for the second time, an Oakland Police officer spoke with the man who assaulted a staff member, and then returned to UHW witnesses and asked about the local union’s dispute with “the International.” When asked, the uniformed police officer refused to confirm or deny that the man was working on behalf of SEIU International.
SEIU President Andy Stern’s last attempt to cow the recalcitrant UHW was to declare the local “corrupt” and to have it placed in “trusteeship” manned by his own hand-picked operatives, naturally. Interestingly, Stern’s appointed hearing officer has announced that once his review of the purportedly corrupt UHW is over, he will submit his report only in private to Stern and not in a public manner. With that being the case, few imagine that President Andy Stern has any intention other than to declare a hostile takeover of the UHW to “solve” the supposed “corruption” no matter what the report says or what the members of the UHW say.
Stern’s model is a top down, iron-fisted control from D.C. cutting out the locals from any say in union affairs.
This is all quite interesting in light of the expansive plans that President Stern has for his future and that of the SEIU. Stern envisions the SEIU taking over all state workers and for himself to become a political powerhouse with the willing participation of his close associate Barack Obama.
Sounds like these fellows really care about the little guy, eh? So much for that ideas of democracy in union operations, I guess?