Thursday, October 19, 2017

More details on sexual harassment allegations inside Purple Palace


Scott Courtney
More coverage of the details emerging around Mary Kay Henry’s suspension of SEIU EVP Scott Courtney

In an article published this afternoon, Josh Eidelson (the reporter who initially broke the story) describes more allegations from unnamed current and former SEIU staffers about Courtney’s romantic relationships with multiple women staffers. (Josh Eidelson, “‘Fight for 15’ Leader Suspended While Union Investigates Office Dating,” Bloomberg BNA.)

Here’s an excerpt:
Beyond his relationship with his new wife, multiple current and former SEIU employees who spoke to Bloomberg said that [Scott] Courtney had a pattern of dating subordinates. His conduct, these people say, has been a source of tension and concern within the union and has spurred an internal ethics complaint that preceded this week’s suspension. Some co-workers said that they believed people working for Courtney had been rewarded or reassigned based on romantic relationships with him.
… One woman recounted a time when she felt pressured by him into agreeing to have dinner together and had to scramble to find a way to back out. “The climate he created was hostile to women, and ultimately it didn’t stop with him,” said the woman, who now works elsewhere in the labor movement.

The full article is below.

The article mentions Courtney’s marriage in recent days to an SEIU staffer after they apparently eloped in Europe. The article notes that Courtney has publicized their marriage in photos on Twitter and Facebook. Here’s one of the photos posted by Courtney.



The sexual harassment inside SEIU that’s grabbing headlines is more widespread than the current case, according to Tasty’s sources. For example, sources say SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern was known to sleep with women staffers when he was SEIU’s Organizing Director.

Tasty, in earlier coverage, described multiple allegations surrounding a former SEIU staff leader, John August, who reportedly was notorious for sexual harassment inside both SEIU and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. In 2013, he was ousted from his job atop the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions after months of investigations regarding sexual harassment and abusive behavior against staffers. His removal apparently took place after he sexually harassed a staffer at Kaiser Permanente.
 
SEIU's Dave Regan
Courtney, prior to becoming a top officer at SEIU International, served as the Organizing Director at SEIU 1199 Ohio, which was headed by Dave Regan

Regan, who currently serves as the president of SEIU-UHW and is a member of SEIU's International Executive Board, has been the subject of a number of allegations of sexual misconduct targeting both staff and union members.

According to Tasty’s sources, the harassment of women staffers has existed for many years inside SEIU but the union’s leaders have largely turned a blind eye and failed to hold high-level SEIU officials accountable.


Bloomberg BNA

‘Fight for 15’ Leader Suspended While Union Investigates Office Dating

Current and former SEIU staff describe a union leader’s pattern of relationships with subordinates.

By Josh Eidelson

October 19, 2017, 12:34 PM PDT

An architect of the high-profile union campaign to raise U.S. fast-food wages has been suspended from his duties at the Service Employees International Union this week over a relationship with a subordinate whom he married, and multiple current and former colleagues say his conduct is part of a pattern of previous romantic relationships with women working for him.

Scott Courtney, an executive vice president at SEIU who played a key role in creating and leading the union’s “Fight for 15” campaign, was suspended from his job on Monday by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. A staff email sent by Henry on Wednesday said that there had been questions about Courtney “relating to a romantic relationship between a staff person and a supervisor.”

Courtney, reached via Twitter earlier this week, said he was on his honeymoon and “in no position to respond at this time.” His new wife, an SEIU organizer who now goes by Ashley Courtney, seemed to address the controversy by posting to Twitter and Facebook a photo of the couple in wedding attire with the caption, “No matter what you do to us, I will not apologize for getting married. #LoveAlwaysWins.” Mr. Courtney did not respond to further questions, and it not clear if the couple still work together at SEIU.

Beyond his relationship with his new wife, multiple current and former SEIU employees who spoke to Bloomberg said that Courtney had a pattern of dating subordinates. His conduct, these people say, has been a source of tension and concern within the union and has spurred an internal ethics complaint that preceded this week’s suspension. Some co-workers said that they believed people working for Courtney had been rewarded or reassigned based on romantic relationships with him.

SEIU spokeswoman Sahar Wali said the union is investigating “the situation that gave rise to” allegations about Courtney’s relationship with the staffer and the union’s “ethical code and anti-nepotism policy.” She declined to comment on the details. It is unclear from SEIU’s statements if Courtney’s suspension and the ongoing investigation are limited to his relationship with his now-wife.

With nearly 2 million members, SEIU is the nation’s second-largest union and arguably its most politically influential. Courtney is a major figure in the leadership, previously serving as organizing director of the health-care division and national organizing director. Courtney has been central to the “Fight for 15,” which has successfully pulled Democratic Party politicians to the left while raising minimum wages through state and local legislation. The campaign has combined strikes against some low-wage employers with political and legal pressure tactics. The goal is to enact a $15 minimum wage across the country and organize low-wage industries.

The campaign’s chief target has been the fast-food industry, which SEIU has so far failed to unionize. “Holding McDonald's accountable is our air traffic controllers moment—our chance to reverse a steady decline for workers that started when President Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, undermining the bargaining power of workers for decades," Courtney said in 2015. As part of the union’s effort against McDonald’s, the Fight for 15 sought to highlight claims of sexual harassment filed against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This month’s sexual harassment scandal involving Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein may have spurred SEIU employees to be more outspoken about alleged impropriety within the union. "Without Harvey Weinstein, there may have been an ethics complaint filed, but I don’t know that there would be the scale of conversation that’s happening now," said one current SEIU employee. "There are some very clear parallels—that there is a man with an outsize amount of power in a certain dynamic and a whole system that has enabled that behavior.”

In her internal email, SEIU’s Henry acknowledged that the investigation into Courtney would cause a big stir in the union. “I know that this situation has profound impacts on our staff family,” she wrote. “Just as we fight to make change in our society, we know that our organization should reflect the kind of just society that we fight for across the country.”

Some women who had left SEIU said they felt Courtney’s alleged relationships with subordinates would cast into doubt any recognition or advancement bestowed on women working below him in the union, since co-workers might assume the promotion came from a sexual relationship with him. One woman recounted a time when she felt pressured by him into agreeing to have dinner together and had to scramble to find a way to back out. “The climate he created was hostile to women, and ultimately it didn’t stop with him,” said the woman, who now works elsewhere in the labor movement.

Janice Fine, a labor studies professor at Rutgers University and a former union organizer, said the macho culture that has historically prevailed in organized labor remains a widespread issue. “This generation of young women in the labor movement, they’ve just come up in a time where they are so much better at calling that stuff out,” she said.

—With assistance by Ben Penn (Bloomberg BNA).

BuzzFeed: SEIU EVP was suspended over complaints about relationships with female staffers


Here’s the latest. 

BuzzFeed published an article this morning citing seven unnamed sources who say SEIU Executive Vice President Scott Courtney had a history of sexual relationships with young women staffers. Here are two excerpts from the story. The full article is below. (Cora Lewis, “A Minimum Wage Campaign Leader Was Suspended After Complaints About His Relationships With Female Staffers,” BuzzFeed News)
Seven people who have worked with Courtney, including current and former SEIU staffers, told BuzzFeed News the top official had a history of sexual relationships with young women staffers — who were subsequently promoted, they said.
…Two also said no significant action was taken after staffers reported abuse and sexual harassment by supervisors — who reported to Courtney. “Nothing happened on those campaigns without Scott knowing," one of the sources told BuzzFeed News.


BuzzFeed News

A Minimum Wage Campaign Leader Was Suspended After Complaints About His Relationships With Female Staffers

Scott Courtney is the chief strategist for the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign for the SEIU.

Posted on October 19, 2017, at 8:13 a.m.

Cora Lewis, BuzzFeed News Reporter



A top labor movement figure who led the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign was suspended this week after complaints from staffers about his conduct toward women, BuzzFeed News has learned.

The Service Employees International Union suspended Executive Vice President Scott Courtney after “questions were raised ... relating to our union’s ethical code and anti-nepotism policy,” Sahar Wali, a spokesperson for the powerful union, said in a statement Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mary Kay Henry, the union’s international president, wrote in an email to her staff that "questions were raised about Executive Vice President Scott Courtney relating to a romantic relationship between a staff person and a supervisor. Such relationships are governed by our union’s ethical code and anti-nepotism policy."

Amid an ongoing investigation by SEIU general counsel Nicole Berner, Henry said in the email, obtained by BuzzFeed News, “I suspended Executive Vice President Scott Courtney from his assigned duties as an officer of SEIU on Monday.”

This past weekend, Courtney married a union staffer. Courtney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are taking this investigation very seriously,” Wali told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. “As credible allegations come in, we are pursuing them as part of this investigation.”

The complaints about Courtney had been an open secret among women in the high-profile Fight for $15 campaign within the union, which is itself led by one of the most visible women in American labor. The SEIU lies at the heart of the US labor movement’s attempt to transform itself from a traditional trade union body into a broad force for social and progressive change for union members and nonunion members alike.

The Fight for $15, which is focused on raising the wages of a low-income, largely female fast-food workforce, has been the highest-profile symbol of that effort, and won dramatic victories from New York to Arizona to California. But women inside the union say the internal culture of the Fight for $15 contrasts starkly with the values Henry and the union preach.

“Our union has been fighting for justice for working families, immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people of all faiths and backgrounds in their work places, in our communities and in our economy and democracy,” Henry wrote in her email. “Just as we fight to make change in our society, we know that our organization should reflect the kind of just society that we fight for across the country.”

“In the weeks ahead, I will be taking concrete steps to ensure there is an open and safe space process for staff to discuss these and related concerns,” Henry wrote.

Seven people who have worked with Courtney, including current and former SEIU staffers, told BuzzFeed News the top official had a history of sexual relationships with young women staffers — who were subsequently promoted, they said.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation within the labor movement.

Two also said no significant action was taken after staffers reported abuse and sexual harassment by supervisors — who reported to Courtney. “Nothing happened on those campaigns without Scott knowing," one of the sources told BuzzFeed News.

According to a source within SEIU and SEIU’s governing documents, suspension is the highest form of action Henry can take within her authority as union president against a union officer at Courtney’s level.

For an executive vice president to be removed from his or her position, the union must go through an official proceeding by the union’s internal executive board, its second highest governing body.

Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.

Contact Cora Lewis at cora.lewis@buzzfeed.com.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Article on Mary Kay Henry’s suspension of SEIU EVP Scott Courtney

Scott Coutney

Here’s the text of Josh Eidelson’s article about Mary Kay Henry’s suspension of Scott Courtney, one of seven Executive Vice Presidents at SEIU.

Bloomberg Law, Labor & Employment
Fight For 15 Architect Suspended by Service Employees Union
October 16, 2017
By Josh Eidelson
The Service Employees International Union has suspended a key creator of its “Fight For 15.”
In a Oct. 16 e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry informed colleagues that she was suspending Executive Vice President Scott Courtney, “from all of his duties as an officer of the International Union,” effective immediately. “During this time I will be handling all duties previously assigned to him with my officer team.”
Henry’s e-mail did not reveal the reason for the suspension. Courtney, a Henry ally, was an architect of her signature initiative, the “Fight For 15,” as well as a predecessor effort called the Fight For a Fair Economy and a more recent campaign to transform the politics of the Midwest. The Fight For 15, a blend of high-profile strikes and legal, media, and political pressure on low-wage employers, has so far fallen short in its efforts to unionize the fast food industry but succeeded in forcing a $15 minimum wage into the mainstream of Democratic politics, and onto the books in states and cities around the country.
“If you think about what the No. 1 job of an elected official ought to be, it’s raising the standard of living of citizens they’re elected to represent,” Courtney told the New York Times in August. “But if you look at what has been happening in battle ground states in the Midwest, it’s just the opposite.”
SEIU, the second-largest U.S. union and arguably the most politically significant one, represents nearly 2 million workers in building services, healthcare, and government. Many of those workers are likely to get the chance next year to stop funding the union, if the Supreme Court rules as expected in a First Amendment case that could outlaw mandatory fees for the entire public sector.
Donald Trump’s surprise victory last year revived the threat the justices would make government employment all “right-to-work.” Henry responded by informing staff that the international union would plan for a thirty percent reduction in its budget by the end of 2017, raising questions about which programs SEIU would prioritize with its limited funds.
SEIU spokeswoman Sahar Wali confirmed the suspension. “SEIU takes all questions related to conduct of elected officers very seriously,” she told Bloomberg News in an e-mail. “This decision was made as part of an on-going inquiry that was called for by President Henry. As this inquiry is ongoing, no conclusions have been reached as yet and we continue to gather information.”
Reached via Twitter late Oct. 16, Courtney said he was on his honeymoon and “in no position to respond at this time.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Josh Eidelson in Washington atjeidelson@bloomberg.net



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mary Kay Henry suspends SEIU Exec. VP Scott Courtney


More palace intrigue from inside SEIU’s DC headquarters.

Yesterday, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry suspended Scott Courtney, an SEIU Executive Vice President who leads SEIU’s “Fight for 15” campaign.

The news comes from Bloomberg BNA reporter Josh Eidelson, who cites an internal e-mail sent yesterday by Mary Kay Henry (Josh Eidelson, “Fight for 15 architects suspended by Service Employees Union,” Bloomberg BNA).

According to Eidelson, Henry yesterday informed SEIU executive board members that she was suspending Courtney “from all of his duties as an officer of the international union.” “During that time I will be handling all duties previously assigned to him with my officer team.”

Here’s a tweet about Eidelson’s article:


Just 13 days before his suspension, Courtney was in Ireland where he spoke at a biennial conference of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), which represents over 200,000 workers in Ireland. Here’s a tweet from SIPTU with a pic of Courtney on the stage:


More to come.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Press: 1,100 members planning to quit SEIU local union in California


One-fifth of the members of SEIU Local 221 are attempting to decertify the San Diego-based union, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (“More than 1,000 members planning to quit county's largest union,” September 1, 2017).

Here’s an excerpt from the story:
Three groups with at least 1,100 employees among them are attempting to decertify from Service Employees International 221, a formal process of leaving the union.
They initiated the move after becoming frustrated with how SEIU has managed ongoing negotiations with the county, while their colleagues in other unions have managed to ink new agreements with raises.
“It’s been a farce from the get-go,” Bob Grable, a former member of SEIU’s bargaining team who sat through negotiations for three earlier contracts. He’s trying to leave that union and form a new group for some of the county’s employees.
“We started negotiations with nothing, no proposals, no negotiation, nothing. This ship sunk at the dock at day-one” said Grable, a vehicle fleet support specialist.

According to the Union-Tribune, three separate groups of San Diego County employees are attempting to leave SEIU Local 221 so they can join other unions: (1) 1,000 urban planners, psychiatrists and epidemiologists; (2) 116 dispatchers in the Sheriff’s Department; and (2) an unknown number of paralegals who work for the district attorney, public defender and the Office of Child Support.

In total, SEIU Local 221 has roughly 5,600 dues-paying members.

Soon after the news hit the press, leaders of SEIU Local 221 rushed to finish contract negotiations with San Diego County officials in order to close the window on workers’ decertification efforts.

The three groups of workers are just the latest among a long list who’ve bolted SEIU Local 221. For example, in May, nearly 400 employees of the City of Chula Vista voted to leave Local 221 and form an independent union after citing frustrations with the quality of SEIU’s support of its members.

In June of 2016, a group of 479 school employees voted to decertify SEIU Local 221 and join an independent union called the Poway School Employees Association (PSEA).

Altogether, in recent years more than eight other bargaining units have decertified the union.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Source: SEIU Officials Secretly Funded Tyrone Freeman's Legal Defense for Crimes against SEIU's Own Members




“What ever happened to Tyrone Freeman?,” asks a reader

In late 2013, Freeman -- a close ally of SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern -- was sentenced to a 33-month term at a federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota

According to a reliable source, Freeman was eventually released from Yankton and transferred to a halfway house in Long Beach, Calif. 

Tasty’s source provided answers to some of the long-standing mysteries surrounding Freeman’s criminal trial:

  • Who was the secret financier who funded Freeman’s multi-million dollar legal defense?
  • Why didn’t Freeman rat out the higher-up SEIU officials -- including Andy Stern and Eliseo Medina -- who were implicated in the crimes for which Freeman was convicted?

Before Tasty offers up the source’s answers, here’s some quick background:

After Freeman was indicted, a team of million-dollar attorneys from Mayer Brown LLP -- a global law firm with offices in New York, DC, London, Paris, Beijing, Dubai, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, etc -- parachuted into California to defend him.

They included Kelly Kramer, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP who leads the firm’s “White Collar Defense and Compliance Team” and has personally defended former members of the US Congress. According to Super Lawyers, he’s one of the top white-collar defense lawyers in DC.
 
Kelly Kramer, Mayer Brown LLP
After Freeman was convicted, Mayer Brown LLP filed an appeal with the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and parachuted two more attorneys from the East Coast to try to get Freeman out of jail.

They included Dan Himmelfarb, a partner in the firm’s DC offices, who specializes in appeals and has “filed more than 200 merits and petition-stage briefs in the US Supreme Court and has argued… 12 cases in the US Supreme Court...,” according to the firm's website. Before joining the firm, Himmelfarb was an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and an Assistant to the US Solicitor General.

In other words, these guys charge beaucoup bucks -- likely $2,000-$3,000 an hour.

Who paid for these attorneys?

It sure wasn’t Freeman.

After all, when Freeman's wife appeared in court during Freeman's criminal trial, she was assigned a Public Defender because she couldn’t afford a private attorney.

So who paid Freeman’s legal bills?
 
Dan Himmelfarb, Mayer Brown LLP
Here’s what Tasty’s source says:

When Freeman was first indicted on multiple criminal charges, a clutch of nervous SEIU officials met with him to discuss his options.

Option #1: Freeman could try to beat the rap by pointing the finger at the higher-up SEIU officials who were apparently complicit in the crimes.

‘But don’t do that,’ argued the SEIU officials. ‘We’ll offer you a better option: SEIU will hire you the best attorneys in the whole damn country and we guarantee you’ll never see a day of jail time. But you can't implicate any of us.’

Of course, we all know that Freeman chose Option #2. And that’s why, during the trial, he never ratted out the SEIU higher-ups who, after all, were paying for his lawyers.

In the end, SEIU officials didn’t come through with their end of the deal -- their fancy attorneys didn’t keep Freeman out of jail.

Freeman has gotta feel burnt by his SEIU handlers, right?

Which leads Tasty to wonder whether SEIU officials might now be slipping him some hush money, given that Freeman has stayed silent even after getting out of jail.

Although Tasty’s source has provided answers to some of the long-standing mysteries, others remain unanswered:
Andy Stern, SEIU
  • How much money did SEIU officials pay for Freeman’s defense and appeal?
  • After the Los Angeles Times outed Freeman's corruption scandal, SEIU officials publicly condemned Freeman for stealing from low-paid SEIU members. Why did SEIU officials turn around and secretly fund his criminal defense for crimes committed against SEIU's own members? Isn't this proof that SEIU higher-ups are implicated in Freeman's crimes? After all, why else would they have funded his defense against stealing money from SEIU members?
  • Who authorized SEIU's payments to Freeman's attorneys? What role did Andy Stern, Anna Burger and Mary Kay Henry play?
  • Will Freeman tell his story to the public?
  • Or is SEIU currently paying hush money to keep Freeman silent?



Friday, September 15, 2017

SEIU-UHW and Hospital Corporation to Stand Trial over Illegal Firing of Worker


A federal judge has ordered SEIU-UHW and Dignity Health to stand trial next month over their roles in the allegedly illegal firing of a California hospital worker, according to court records.

On October 17, a federal courtroom in Los Angeles will offer a picture worth a thousand words: SEIU-UHW and Dignity Health sitting side-by-side in the defendants’ box.

Dignity is a multi-billion-dollar hospital corporation that employs approximately 15,000 SEIU-UHW members. Since 2009, SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan and Dignity CEO Lloyd Dean have repeatedly inked backroom deals to slash SEIU-UHW members’ pensions and health insurance, and even impose wage freezes ... despite Dignity’s healthy profits.

Who’s bringing the lawsuit against SEIU-UHW and Dignity?

Starla Rollins, a former Ward Clerk at a Dignity Health’s Community Hospital of San Bernardino for over 20 years.

She alleges that Dignity illegally fired her in 2012, and that SEIU-UHW (her union) sat on its hands and refused to help her as Dignity pushed her out the door.

Since filing her suit in 2013, Rollins has fought her way through a series of appeals filed by both SEIU-UHW and Dignity. Last October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled in Starla’s favor and ordered SEIU-UHW and Dignity Health officials to stand trial over their alleged violations that cost Starla her job of 20+ years.

The three-judge panel ruled:
“We conclude that… the Hospital has breached the Seniority Agreement and the CBA, and that triable issues of fact exist as to whether the Union breached its duty of fair representation.”

In their ruling, the judges slammed Marcus Hatcher, who then served as SEIU-UHW’s so-called “Director of Representational Excellence.” Later, SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan appointed Hatcher as the director of the union’s Kaiser Division.
 
Starla Rollins
As far as the upcoming trial, it looks like SEIU-UHW and its hack attorney Bruce Harland are running scared.

In recent weeks, SEIU-UHW’s attorneys twice requested lengthy delays in the start date of the trial. Harland proposed postponing the start date from October 17, 2017 until January 2018.

The judge’s response?

“DENIED.”

Check out the judge’s handwritten response on SEIU-UHW’s request, which Tasty has posted below.

Stay tuned for more news.