Friday, November 17, 2017

Sources Describe Fallout at SEIU-UHW over Sexual Misconduct Scandal


According to Tasty’s sources, here’s what’s happening inside SEIU-UHW following this week's firing of Marcus Hatcher, a top union official, over his alleged affairs with three members of the union’s Executive Board:

SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan held an “emergency conference call” with Executive Board members who work at Kaiser Permanente. During the call, Regan described the circumstances surrounding Hatcher’s firing. 

Until just days ago, Hatcher was the director of SEIU-UHW’s Kaiser Division and also served on the union’s Executive Committee.

Yesterday, following the publication of Tasty’s blog post about Hatcher’s firing, Regan convened a meeting of top union staffers and members of the Executive Committee. Sources describe the meeting, which included discussion of the sexual misconduct and “the overall culture” inside SEIU-UHW, as “intense and emotional.”

During the meeting, rank-and-file members of the Executive Committee suggested that the union hire a third-party expert to conduct an independent investigation into these issues. Top union staffers reportedly said they “take these problems seriously,” but the Executive Committee’s rank-and-file members left the meeting feeling concerned that “this is all lip service” in response to the current bad PR and “that no real investigation will take place.”

Interestingly, sources also report that a second staffer, Mindy Sturge, was fired this week soon after Marcus Hatcher got axed. Sturge, a longtime manager at the union, currently works as a “Coordinator III” in the Organizing Department and formerly served as an Assistant Director in the Hospital Division. At this point, it’s unclear why she was fired, although the timing of her firing is raising eyebrows inside SEIU-UHW.

Press: “SEIU Manager Sexually Assaulted Staffer Then Was Rehired at Another SEIU Local”


As revelations emerged about the termination of a top SEIU-UHW official over sexual misconduct, a second story hit the press about another SEIU-UHW staffer allegedly involved in sexual harassment and assault.

In 2014, Pedro Malave was removed from his job as the Assistant Director at SEIU 32BJ Local 615 in Boston over sexual assaults against a female co-worker, according to journalist Mike Elk writing in Payday Report. (Mike Elk, “SEIU Manager Sexually Assaulted Staffer Then Was Rehired at Another SEIU Local,” Payday Report)

The following year, however, officials at SEIU-UHW hired him into a management position as a “Coordinator,” according to records from the Department of Labor. Later, he went on to work at another California local, SEIU United Service Workers West.

Today, Payday Report announced that SEIU United Service Workers West has fired Malave in the wake of the publication's first article. (Mike Elk, “SEIU Fires Staffer Who Sexually Assaulted Another Staffer Following Payday Investigation,” Payday Report)

Elk’s initial article includes detailed quotes from Malave’s victim, an Administrative Coordinator at the Boston union. After one assault, in which Malave attempted to masturbate in her face, she said the following about her work life:
"I felt anxious and nauseous most of the time. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to see him face-to-face. I didn't want to have him look at me. I just felt disgusted by the situation and the anxiety grew around the fact that it was likely going to happen on a daily basis, considering my job role at the union."

The article continues:
Later in 2015, [the Administrative Coordinator] would discover that Malave would go on to get a job with SEIU again as an organizer with SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) in California. Since then, Malave has moved on to work as a regional field coordinator for a separate SEIU local, SEIU United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW).
 Neither SEIU-USWW or SEIU-UHW returned Payday’s requests for comment.

In the article, the Administrative Coordinator expresses special frustration about Malave’s rehiring by SEIU locals after being removed for sexual assault.
Malave was able to obtain this work despite repeated efforts by [the Administrative Coordinator] and others in her Boston local to ensure that Malave would have a permanent record placed in his file so that he could never work again for SEIU.
“More than being upset about what happened with Pedro, I was really frustrated with how SEIU handled the situation,” [she said]. 

She is now part of an effort of current and past SEIU staffers “who are launching a campaign to pressure SEIU to take more concrete steps to prevent sexual harassment and assault,” says the article. “The organizers have launched an email address metooseiu@gmail.com and encourage women to contact them confidentially to share their stories and organize against sexual harassment and assault.”

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Source: Top SEIU-UHW Official Fired over Sexual Misconduct


Marcus Hatcher, a top officer at SEIU-UHW and a close confidant of Dave Regan, was fired during the past 48 hours due to sexual misconduct, according to sources inside the union based in Oakland, California.

Hatcher was the Director of SEIU-UHW’s Kaiser Division and was also a member of the union’s governing board and the board’s Executive Committee. He formerly served as the union’s “Director of Representational Excellence.”

Here’s what one source reports:

At a recent meeting of the union’s Executive Board, a dispute erupted among three female board members who are each “intimately involved” with Hatcher. One of the women then reported the incident to Triana Silton, a staffer at SEIU-UHW.

During the past 48 hours, Hatcher was terminated, according to a second source.

According to the first source, Hatcher is not the only SEIU-UHW official who has had sexual affairs with staffers and members. The source writes:
That being said....Chokri [Bensaid] and Dave [Regan] are and have been perpetrators of the same conduct. Sleeping around with staff and members. Abusing their power.
Marcus, Chokri and Dave would all fraternize outside of work. This is well known and documented.  Birds of a feather flock together.
Dave Regan is the president of SEIU-UHW and a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board. Chokri Bensaid is the director of SEIU-UHW’s Hospital Division and a member of both the union’s Executive Board and its Executive Committee.

In 2016, these three individuals ranked among the highest-paid officials at SEIU-UHW, according to records filed with the US Department of Labor: Dave Regan ($224,706), Chokri Bensaid ($152,860), and Marcus Hatcher ($126,011).

For many years, multiple reports have swirled around Dave Regan and his alleged affairs with both staffers and members of the unions that he has directed, including both SEIU-UHW and SEIU 1199 Ohio Kentucky West Virginia. At the latter union, for example, he allegedly had an affair with one of the members of the union’s Executive Board. At SEIU-UHW, staffers and board members have alleged, for example, that he had an affair with a staffer in the union’s Hospital Division.
SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan

Given the reports of sexual misconduct by at least several top SEIU-UHW officials, one staffer asks why the union has only taken action against Marcus Hatcher, who is African-American and has less power in SEIU-UHW’s hierarchy than Regan and Bensaid. The staffer, referring to Regan, Bensaid and Hatcher, writes:
But when their maleable bodies started sweating amidst the sexual harrasement spotlight.....the only Black Director of the Local was chosen to be the sacrifice for the sins of many.
Interestingly, the staffer reports that “there are plenty more stories” of sexual misconduct inside SEIU-UHW that haven’t yet reached the public light.

Friday, November 10, 2017

SEIU’s Tyrone Freeman: Entrepreneur of the Year



Since Tasty’s recent post about Tyrone Freeman, several readers have spotted him in Los Angeles.

What’s Ty up to these days?

Well, it looks like he’s taken a page out of Andy Stern’s “entrepreneurial” playbook.

Freeman, who formerly headed the nation’s largest union of homecare workers (SEIU Local 6434), is now running a consulting firm to help homecare companies make more profit.

No joke.



Tyrone’s firm is called Maven Innovative Consultancy, LLC. The company’s homepage has images like this:
  

And this:


But wait a sec. Tasty thought Tyrone wanted to defend workers?

Nope.

His website says,
“Mr. Freeman specializes in the defense of small business, in the full range of business matters, including advising business owners. In addition, Mr. Freeman is an Executive with substantial business development, management/leadership experience. High premium on providing cost saving management practices… operational cost saving… Maven Innovative Consultancy, LLC – a boutique consulting firm specializing in the exclusive representation of management in business affairs. A large portion of the Firm’s clients are home care agencies and other health-care related employers.”



Tyrone says he’s a “specialist” in “housing development strategies.”

That’s interesting.

When Freeman was the president of SEIU Local 6434 and also a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board, he set up a housing scam that helped land him in jail.

In 2004, Freeman set up a nonprofit housing organization called the “Long Term Care Housing Corp” to supposedly build housing for low-income workers.

Only… it didn’t.

Freeman, who controlled the organization, listed the home of one of his aides, Rickman Jackson, as the organization’s administrative office. Ty then paid Jackson tens of thousands of dollars in “rent,” which Jackson pocketed.

Btw, despite stealing $33,000 from workers, Jackson is still on SEIU’s payroll to this day.

That’s not all.

Freeman also had the housing organization hire him as a “consultant” and pay him tens of thousands of dollars of the in consulting fees, according to an SEIU report described by the Los Angeles Times. (Paul Pringle, “Union-founded nonprofit spent zero on its charitable purpose in two years,” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2008)

In other words, Freeman is quite an expert in “housing development strategies.”

Which brings us to the elephant in the room.

Why did SEIU’s top officials reportedly devise a scheme to secretly fund Freeman’s legal defense after he was indicted in February 2012 for stealing millions of dollars from SEIU’s own members?

In 2008 -- after the Los Angeles Times published a series of revelations about Freeman’s corruption (remember the Grand Havana Room cigar club?) -- SEIU officials ousted Freeman, banned him for life from SEIU membership, and ordered him to pay back more than $1 million in money he stole from SEIU’s members.

Tasty bets dollars to donuts that Freeman never paid back the $1 million.

So… why the f*ck did SEIU officials secretly give him six and seven figures to fund his criminal defense?

What role did Andy Stern play in the secret payments? What about Mary Kay Henry? She became president of SEIU on May 8, 2010 and presumably was involved in funding Freeman’s legal defense until his appeal was dismissed in October 2014.

SEIU officials are struggling with the union’s widening sexual harassment scandal. They also need to investigate the massive ethical questions swirling around the Freeman scandal. For example, did SEIU officials commit conflict-of-interest violations by diverting SEIU cash to Freeman in order to buy his silence about their involvement in his crimes?

Workers have enough problems with greedy bosses and corrupt politicians. They deserve democratic, transparent and accountable unions. It's time for SEIU to come clean.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Two More SEIU Directors Depart amid Sexual Harassment Investigation


Scott Courtney

Two more directors of SEIU’s "Fight for $15" campaign are gone, according to Bloomberg and BuzzFeed.

Kendall Fells, who was the “National Organizing Director” and “one of the top national leaders of SEIU’s ‘Fight for $15’ campaign,” has resigned, according to the November 2 articles. (Links to the articles are below.) 

In SEIU’s 2016 financial records, Fells is listed as a “Deputy Organizing Director” with an annual pay of $146,740.

Meanwhile, Mark Raleigh, who directed the campaign’s Detroit office, was fired. On October 23, SEIU placed him on administrative leave.

And… it sounds like more firings may be coming down the pike. Here’s what an SEIU spokesperson told Bloomberg:
“These personnel actions are the culmination of this stage of the investigation which brought to light the serious problems related to abusive behavior towards staff, predominantly female staff.”

The SEIU spokesperson’s spin -- that these problems were only “brought to light” during the current investigation -- contradicts reports from SEIU staffers who say the abusive treatment of women staffers has been an open secret inside of SEIU for some time.

Scott Courtney -- who was the top director of SEIU’s "Fight for $15" campaign -- reportedly had sexual liaisons with multiple women staffers who then received promotions, according to sources cited by both Bloomberg and BuzzFeed .

Courtney was suspended from SEIU after he eloped to Europe with an SEIU female staffer. He resigned days after being suspended by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

Courtney’s departure is significant. He was one of SEIU’s top international officials, serving as an Executive Vice President and a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board.

Altogether, four top national leaders of SEIU’s "Fight for $15" campaign have now resigned or been fired in amidst a growing sexual harassment scandal. On October 23, Caleb Jennings -- the director of the campaign’s Chicago office and a former top staffer at Dave Regan’s SEIU-UHW -- was fired.  

In an e-mail to BuzzFeed, Jennings seemed to echo the reports of SEIU staffers who say the abusive treatment of women staffers has been a longtime, open secret inside SEIU. He told Bloomberg:
“President Mary Kay Henry should focus on the systemic abuse that has been going on within the institution, and hold accountable not just the perpetrators, but the many who have been complicit.”

Jennings told Bloomberg he denied any wrongdoing... but he nonetheless appears to refer to himself and his fellow campaign directors as “perpetrators” of “systemic abuse that has been going on within [SEIU].”

Not too bright, right?

Sounds like “Caleb the Creepy Bathroom Monitor” should watch a few more episodes of Perry Mason before he starts talking to the press about his culpability.

Here are links to yesterday’s to press stories:
Josh Eidelson, “SEIU Ousts Senior Leaders for Abusive Behavior Toward Women,” Bloomberg, November 2, 2017. 
Cora Lewis, “The Organizing Director of The Fight For 15 Has Resigned Amid Harassment Investigation,” BuzzFeed News, November 2, 2017.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SEIU staffer: 'My firing was unjustified'



Here’s the latest.

It looks like SEIU’s Caleb Jennings -- who worked closely with SEIU EVP Scott Courtney -- may fight his firing by Mary Kay Henry. Jennings calls the firing “unjustified” in comments to the Chicago Sun-Times.

What about the problems of harassment inside SEIU?

Jennings points the finger at SEIU and its top officials for “the systemic abuse that has been going on within the institution.”

Here’s an excerpt from the article. (Stefano Esposito and Mitchell Armentrout, “Union organizer fired from ‘Fight for 15’ minimum wage group,” Chicago Sun-Times)
“I support the ongoing investigations and I’m against any workplace sexual misconduct and abuse,” Jennings said in an email. “My hope is that SEIU focuses on the systemic abuse that has been going on within the institution, rather than focusing on their public relations damage control. My employment was severed with SEIU without cause, was unjustified, and I am exploring all my options.”

In response to Jennings' comments, an SEIU spokeswoman said the union “can’t comment on HR-related matters, or any details regarding our ongoing internal investigation,” according to the Sun-Times.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Details emerge on SEIU staffer fired in ongoing harassment investigation


Caleb Jennings

The SEIU staffer who was fired yesterday in connection with a widening harassment investigation is Caleb Jennings, says an anonymous source. Meanwhile, Mark Raleigh is the SEIU staffer who was placed on administrative leave.

This afternoon, BuzzFeed News confirmed this information. (Cora Lewis, “The Lead Chicago Organizer Of The Fight For 15 Has Been Fired Amid A Harassment Investigation,” BuzzFeed News)

Jennings told BuzzFeed:
"My employment was severed with SEIU on Monday."

Yesterday, top SEIU officials said they took action against two unnamed staffers in an announcement related to a widening investigation initially focused on SEIU Executive Vice President Scott Courtney. Also yesterday, Courtney resigned after being suspended a week earlier by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry amid allegations of a history of sexual relationships with young women staffers.


Today, an anonymous source told Tasty that:
Jennings and Raleigh fancied themselves "mini-Scott Courtneys" and relished bullying people and trying to intimidate them (especially women). Jennings was known to blow up on people and even once shoved a staffer into the wall.

Last year, Jennings earned a total of $148,955 as an “Organizing Coordinator 3” at SEIU, according to financial records filed by SEIU with the US Department of Labor. In 2016, Raleigh earned $147,144 as a “Deputy Campaign Director” at SEIU. Raleigh reportedly serves as the director of SEIU’s “Fight for $15” campaign in Detroit.

Prior to taking a job in SEIU’s “Fight for $15” campaign, Jennings was an Assistant Director of the Hospital Division at SEIU-UHW, headed by Dave Regan, who himself has confronted allegations of sexual misconduct and violence, including a physical assault against a court employee documented by a local police department in California. Regan reportedly embraces “old school” tactics of threats, intimidation and “ass-whipping” in workplace organizing, leading to lawsuits and even allegations of death threats.

In recent months, a 28-year-old woman organizer for “Fight for $15” reportedly won more than $20,000 in back pay after Caleb Jennings wrongfully terminated her from her job as an organizer with “Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago” (WOCC), a Chicago affiliate of SEIU’s “Fight for $15” campaign. That news comes from an August 25, 2017 article published by libcom.org, an online site, and is also discussed in today's BuzzFeed article. (“Outsourced SEIU union organizer wrongfully terminated for organizing at work,” libcom.org)

Jennings reportedly served as WOCC’s Director. An NLRB judge ordered SEIU to reinstate the organizer, Gönül Düzer, to her job. She declined, however, telling the online site that “I wouldn't want to work for someone who assaulted me.”

BuzzFeed describes the incident this way: Jennings “became violent, ripping [Düzer’s] work phone out of her hands and subsequently shoving her against a door frame.”

NLRB records reviewed by Tasty confirm that in June of 2016 Ms. Düzer filed an “unfair labor practice” charge against Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (NLRB Case Number 13-CA-179335). Two NLRB records indicate the case was closed in May of 2017 following an out-of-court settlement between Ms. Düzer and SEIU, the terms of which were not disclosed in those records.

In 2016, says libcom.org, more than 50 employees of three Chicago-area SEIU locals wrote a letter to top SEIU officials -- including Tom Balanoff and Keith Kelleher -- stating that Jennings “has made himself well known for creating a toxic work environment. This has led to a high turnover among staff. Gönül will be the third woman to resign or be fired within the last 2 weeks.” The letter also alleges that Jennings “attacked an immigrant and a woman of color, exactly the workers which the FF15’s success depends on.”

BuzzFeed News cites sources connecting Courtney to Jennings and Raleigh:
Both Jennings and Raleigh reported to Courtney, an SEIU source confirmed, and former SEIU staff alleged to BuzzFeed News that he protected them from consequences.

In 2010, Tasty reported an account of two women at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oakland, California who described how Caleb Jennings -- who then worked for Regan’s SEIU-UHW -- followed them to the women’s bathroom and waited outside to monitor them, which earned Jennings the nickname of “Caleb the Creepy Bathroom Monitor.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

Scott Courtney resigns from SEIU


Scott Courtney
Scott Courtney, an SEIU Executive Vice President and leader of the union’s “Fight for $15” campaign, has resigned his position at the union, according to BuzzFeed News and Bloomberg News. In addition, another staffer was fired and a third was placed on administrative leave. Here are links to the news coverage:




And here’s an excerpt from the BuzzFeed article:
"This morning, President Mary Kay Henry accepted Scott Courtney’s resignation as an elected officer and member of SEIU," wrote Sahar Wali, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, in an email to BuzzFeed News.
"This comes a week after she suspended him from his assigned duties based on preliminary information that surfaced through an internal investigation launched to look into questions about to potential violations of our union’s anti-nepotism policy, efforts to evade our Code of Ethics and subsequent complaints related to sexual misconduct and abusive behavior towards union staff," Wali added.

Bloomberg News reports that SEIU President Mary Kay Henry sent an e-mail today to SEIU’s International Executive Board informing them she accepted Courtney’s resignation and took action against two other staffers. The article includes this detail:
Current and former SEIU employees had told Bloomberg News last week that Courtney had a pattern of dating subordinates, and some said they believed people working for him had been rewarded or reassigned based on those romantic relationships.

On October 19, UltraViolet -- a national women’s rights organization founded in 2012 -- issued a press release calling on SEIU to fire Courtney. The release stated:

The SEIU must immediately move to fire Courtney, and conduct a review of the organization’s sexual harassment policies. This is wholly unacceptable, and the SEIU leadership must act quickly to ensure that it never happens again.

Courtney is one of the highest officers inside SEIU, serving as one of seven "Executive Vice Presidents" and a member of the union's International Executive Board.

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.