Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Legal Happs

Last week, two separate judges delivered a pair of legal body-blows to Kaiser Permanente and SEIU.

On Monday, an Administrative Law Judge issued this 23-page decision that rules that Kaiser executives broke the law when they withheld as much as $2 million in pay and benefits from 2,300 RNs and professionals who voted overwhelmingly to (87% to 13%) join NUHW in January. The judge orders Kaiser to "cease and desist" from violating federal law and tells it to immediately "restore and maintain" workers' wages and benefits by awarding back pay, plus accumulated interest, to the workers.

The judge has few kind words for Kaiser. He calls Kaiser's actions "inherently destructive" of employees' basic labor rights and discusses "the massive damage done" by Kaiser's execs. The judge dismisses Kaiser's legal arguments with words like these: "indefensible," "lacks merit," "is without any legal foundation," "even worse..." Tasty especially likes this one: "It is on this point that this contention by Respondent [Kaiser Permanente] collapses completely." Ouch!

Then, on Friday, a second judge issued this federal injunction against Kaiser's law-breaking execs. Kaiser's actions were so severe that the NLRB went to the the extra length of seeking a 10(j) injunction in federal court to stop Kaiser from using endless NLRB appeals as part of an SEIU-styled stalling tactic. In his ruling, the federal judge continued the trampling of Kaiser and its attorneys: "This... fallacious argument amounts to nothing more than sophistry intended to conceal an unwillingness to bargain." Here's the NLRB's press release on the injunction.

Well...so much for the millions of dollars that Kaiser must have paid to Nixon Peabody, the union-busting law firm Kaiser hired to defend itself. Nixon Peabody is one of the world's largest law firms with offices in Paris, London and Shanghai. According to the firm's website, the two attorneys hired by Kaiser -- Michael Lindsay and Seth Neulight-- specialize in "advising employers on union avoidance related issues." In fact, Neulight's personal profile brags about how he helped a distribution company fight a Teamsters organizing drive.

So why are these legal rulings also a blow against SEIU? Well, after Kaiser illegally withheld millions of dollars in pay and benefits from the 2,300 RNs and professionals, Kaiser and SEIU (or "KaiSEIU") then launched a massive campaign to threaten thousands more Kaiser workers with the same cuts if they voted to join NUHW in the next round of elections.

In fact, SEIU spent millions on mail, email, robocalls, push-polls, videos, and out-of-state organizers to make threats like these to the 43,000 workers waiting for their election. The two judges' rulings show how KaiSEIU's entire campaign was built on massive violations of federal law that were "inherently destructive" to workers' rights and did "massive damage" to workers, according to the judges.