Friday, April 13, 2018

Workers Battle SEIU over Chicago Trusteeship

May Kay Henry and Eliseo Medina

Members of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago are making headway in ending SEIU’s nearly two-year-long trusteeship of their local union, according to inside sources and federal court documents.

In fact, one source says SEIU may be forced to hold internal officer elections sometime during the summer or fall. They say SEIU officials have already picked out an SEIU staffer to serve as their candidate for president of the local.

Here’s the latest:

On February 7, 2018, several members of Local 73 filed another lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to end SEIU’s trusteeship and to order SEIU to hold democratic elections so union members can choose a board and officers to run their local union. The lawsuit – which names SEIU, Mary Kay Henry and Eliseo Medina as defendants -- is based on a federal law that says a trusteeship “shall be presumed invalid...” after 18 months. (See below for a copy of the lawsuit: Hunter et al v. Service Employees International Union et al.)

Even though the trusteeship is now more than 20 months old, SEIU hasn’t taken any steps to end it. In fact, says the lawsuit, SEIU officials have tried to suppress members’ efforts to restore local control. Here’s an excerpt from the lawsuit:
At the last general membership meeting on September 23, 2017, a nomination from a member on the floor was made to commence elections, it was properly seconded by another member, yet then Trustee Denise Poloyac unilaterally rejected the Motion and declared, contrary to previous representations, that the meeting was not a “general membership meeting.”
…The Plaintiffs and the general membership of the Local 73 will suffer harm if the current Trusteeship is not discontinued because it would deprive the general membership of the officers and executive board members of their choosing, from inside their membership, rather than the leadership and direction improperly imposed upon them from the International Union when the same is invalid as a matter of law.

Next, things got worse.

According to the lawsuit, union members created a slate of candidates called “Members Leading Members,” established a website, and collected signatures from more than 2,000 members in support of the slate.

Just four days after the website went live on January 4, 2018, “seven of the officer candidates listed on the slate posted on the “Members for Members” website were unilaterally suspended, without notice and without due process or hearing,” according to the lawsuit. Two days later, all seven of the candidates were fired by the SEIU trustees. (These candidates were members of SEIU Local 73’s staff.)

Yesterday, a federal judge held a preliminary hearing on the latest lawsuit during which she rejected a motion by SEIU’s attorneys and “encouraged [SEIU and the members who are suing it] to negotiate conditions for reasonably prompt resumption of local control, and free and fair elections.” Another hearing will happen in three weeks.

So which SEIU International staffer has been fingered to run as SEIU International’s candidate for president of Local 73?

According to Tasty’s sources, it’s Jeffrey Howard

SEIU assigned Howard, an “Assistant Area Director” for SEIU International, to work at Local 73 just four months ago. Under SEIU's rules, a person must be a member in good standing of the local union for at least two years in order to qualify as a candidate for office. So how can Jeff Howard actually run to become president of Local 73?

“Jeff was asked about the fact that he has only been a member of Local 73 for four months,” says a source, “and his reply was Mary Kay [Henry] has waived the two-year membership requirement!”

For more information about SEIU’s trusteeship and a look back at Dave Regan’s violent attack on a nationwide meeting of union reformers some nine years ago (during which one SEIU member died), check out an article by labor journalist Steve Early:  Purple bullying, ten years later: SEIU trustees trample membership rights,” Monthly Review, April 1, 2018.