Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Michelle Ringuette's Dual Unionism with Andy Stern

Here’s an interesting story featuring Andy Stern and his former personal spokesperson, Michelle Ringuette, who’s apparently been working as a union double agent since her departure from SEIU.

As readers no doubt remember, SEIU’s President Emeritus has been making quite a scene by shamelessly pimping for giant corporations… like when he joined Fortune 500 CEOs to push for massive tax cuts on U.S. corporations' overseas profits. Of course, Andy LOVES all the attention... although he gets kinda sensitive when people criticize him.

That’s where Michelle Ringuette comes into our story. After Andy retired as SEIU’s president, Michelle eventually followed him out of the Purple Palace by landing a job at the American Federation of Teachers, where she got a fancy title as “Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives.” Adios, SEIU…

Or so we thought!

Earlier this month, Tasty was stunned to see Ringuette using her SEIU email account to defend King Andy’s reputation during an email discussion among labor journalists. Here’s what happened. 

One journalist sent an email entitled “Andy Stern's integrity continues to deteriorate,” and others followed by sharing articles like Former Union President Andy Stern Says He Was Too Tough on Banks at SEIU, which features a pinky-ringed picture of King Andy with this caption: “Convert? Former union president Andy Stern is supporting pro-business policies.”

That’s when Ringuette, wielding her SEIU email account, jumped into the discussion to defend Stern (even though she managed to inadvertently backhand him as she tried to curry favor with the journalists). Here’s Ringuette’s email:
From: Michelle Ringuette <>
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2011 17:46:38 -0500
Subject: Re: [laborjourno] Re: Andy Stern's integrity continues to deteriorate

As some of you might know, I used to work for SEIU and I served as Andy's spokesperson for a while. I consider him a friend and I think he's far more complex than what can be captured in this kind of thread. 

I asked Andy about this because after all our work, this was profoundly disappointing to read. 

What he actually said (or had been trying to convey - I wasn't present for the interview) was that he (we) made a mistake by personalizing it and going after [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Jamie Dimon and [Goldman Sachs CEO] Lloyd Blankfein as individuals rather than staying focused on the problems with the system. 

Michelle Ringuette
202 341 7057
Random words and unconventional spelling courtesy iPhone 
So what’s the deal??  Is Ringuette secretly working for SEIU while pulling down a paycheck from the American Federation of Teachers? Is this “dual unionism”... or just plain old double-agent spyism? Or has Michelle decided to launch a “strategic initiative” to use the AFT’s resources to defend Andy Stern? Well, whatever it is, it looks like Michelle has some explaining to do!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SEIU-UHW: “The fact that the insurance has gone up alone, it's not a violation.”

Here’s the latest of the seemingly endless contract concessions that SEIU has handed over to healthcare corporations since it imposed its disastrous trusteeship on California’s healthcare workers.

Several thousand SEIU-UHW members at the Daughters of Charity Health System are now paying thousands of dollars for health insurance that used to be virtually free. Why? Because in 2009, SEIU’s DC trustees negotiated a sell-out labor contract that leaves workers on the hook for ever-increasing health insurance costs.

Check out this email that a worker at  Daughters of Charity sent to SEIU-UHW Field Rep Carlos Urrutia about the ballooning insurance payments that are draining workers’ paychecks. (Tasty has removed the worker’s name).

On Nov 29, 2011, at 12:17 PM, "________" <_____________ > wrote:

Hey Carlos,

I received a letter on Saturday that says there was an error about our payroll deductions for our health ins[urance] costs and we have until Dec 1 to go in and make changes. I am a part time employee and for just my health coverage (PPO plan) my deduction is $198 every two weeks! This does not include dental and etc!? This is absolutely absurd! Seiu needs to get on this because the rates went thru the roof! No one knew about this until I went around with my letter!
$198 every two weeks? That’s almost $5,000 a year! So what did Urrutia have to say? 

On Nov 29, 2011, at 1:20 PM, Carlos Urrutia <> wrote:

I am sorry to hear. Uhw members are facing this challenge in at every facility, profitable hospitals ask the employees to pay more to stay competitive, others do it because they are losing money and say they have to do it to stay afloat. Regardless, we don't think is the employees that have to fix this major healthcare crisis by paying more, instead by working together,union members , community and hospitals in promoting wellness

We have identified six major chronic conditions that are raising health insurance premiums in the US: heart condition, diabetics, obesity, asthma, hypertension and depression. We strongly believe that if we gain control of these conditions, insurance cost will drop. As you know costs more to react to this conditions then to work on prevention.  Our union urges you to get involved and asks this things from you and your coworkers:
1) Join the contract action team

Carlos Urrutia
Union Representative/Organizer
510 735-6171
WTF!! Are you joking? So let’s see if Tasty got this right…  workers are supposed to wait until each of California’s 39 million residents loses 25 lbs before they’ll see any relief from SEIU’s crappy deal on their health insurance costs?  WTF is the union for?

Btw, Tasty especially enjoys Urrutia’s second suggestion for “getting involved.” It’s about as cogent and persuasive as the rest of his email, including his lame-ass excuse for why SEIU gave away workers’ long-time health insurance standards.

So what happened after Urrutia delivered his email?  Well, the worker wrote a one-line response to Urrutia that shows far more initiative than SEIU-UHW’s entire collective-bargaining program: “The employees want this fixed ASAP! We need a facility wide grievance.

Here's how SEIU-UHW’s capable Field Rep responded: 

From: Carlos Urrutia <>
Date: November 29, 2011 3:59:44 PM PST
To: ______ <__________________>
Subject: Re: Slrh ins problem
I will suggest that you talk with Chief Steward Marc Quarles and Rep Chair Greg Gaboni. I also think that you need to identify the grievance and actual article violated in the CBA [collective bargaining agreement]….

Please follow the guide lines in the CBA to Identify possible violation. The fact that the insurance has gone up alone, it's not a violation.

I have also copied the stewards.

In solidarity,

Carlos Urrutia
Union Representative/Organizer
510 735-6171
So there’s the bottom-line, readers!  The greedy boss didn’t violate the contract because SEIU’s sell-out contract actually lets the company push more and more of its insurance costs onto the backs of workers. Way to go, SEIU!

Monday, November 28, 2011

SEIU Accepted a $217 Million Cut to Workers' Pensions, says Catholic Healthcare West

This just in:  Newly released financial documents reveal that SEIU-UHW negotiated a massive pension cut for 15,000 SEIU-UHW members at Catholic Healthcare West in California. SEIU-UHW's deal eliminated workers' defined-benefit pension plan and replaced it with a 401(k)-style plan. According to CHW, the change has already stripped $217 million from workers' retirement benefits.

Here’s what happened:  Last year, SEIU-UHW and CHW inked a deal that ended workers’ defined-benefit pension plan and pushed workers into a “cash balance plan,” a cheap retirement plan that’s like a 401(k). Notably, SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan accepted the giant cut even though workers are in the middle of a contract. Cash balance plans have sparked huge controversy across the U.S., where some long-time workers have lost 30% of their retirement as companies like Coca Cola and IBM converted workers’ pensions to cash balance plans. 

Earlier this month, CHW spelled out -- for the first time -- the dollar value of SEIU-UHW’s pension cut. The details were disclosed in a 300-page document that CHW officials sent to bondholders. Here’s an excerpt of multiple pages. Below is just a snapshot of the key language.

While the deal stripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of workers' pockets, CHW is literally rolling in truckloads of cash. In a report issued last month, Standard and Poor’s said CHW’s “favorable pension adjustments” helped boost the company’s financial performance by $1.3 billion:
CHW's unrestricted net assets improved tremendously in fiscal 2011, soaring by $1.3 billion due to good bottom-line profitability, strong unrealized investment gains, and favorable pension adjustments. (Source: Standard and Poor’s, Ratings Analysis of CHW, October 19, 2011, p. 5)
$1.3 billion? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why Kaiser Permanente's execs wanted a piece of SEIU-UHW’s action. And Tasty hears that SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan was only too happy to oblige. Last year, Regan accepted a similar deal to eliminate Kaiser workers’ pension plan and replace it with a 401(k). That’s the so-called “secret deal" that’s now openly discussed by top Kaiser execs like Henry Diaz.

Unfortunately, there are many dirty details to the story about how SEIU-UHW officials betrayed CHW's workers. So stay tuned. It’s a lesson that other healthcare workers – especially at Kaiser – better learn quickly unless they wanna watch high-paid officials from the Purple Palace flush their pensions and other hard-earned benefits down the toilet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Day for Andy Stern and SIGA Technologies

It looks like Andy Stern’s get-rich-quick scheme in the bio-warfare industry has hit a bit of a snag. Last week, the chairwoman of a U.S. Senate subcommittee asked the Inspector General to investigate a $433-million, no-bid contract awarded to Andy’s company, SIGA Technologies. 

The request from the Democratic senator was first reported in the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt from an ABC News article:
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says the five-year contract from the Department of Health and Human Services to Siga Technologies –  a New York company run by a major Democratic donor — raises questions about a conflict of interest and the potential waste of precious taxpayer funds.

In a letter to HHS inspector general Daniel Levinson on Monday, McCaskill expressed worry over the hefty price of the drug (reportedly $255 per dose) because the company had not been not forced to compete for the contract. She also noted that the drug itself, known as ST-246, may not be effective since it has a short shelf-life and hasn’t been tested on humans.
What’s Andy Stern’s role in this unfolding scandal? Well, as Tasty reported in earlier posts, Stern was apparently appointed to the company’s board of directors so he could use his SEIU rolodex to “dial for dollars”… or in this case, a $433 million government contract.

So, as Andy sorts through the last of his Thanksgiving leftovers, Tasty is hoping he’ll soon find a shiny government subpoena in his mailbox! If so, here are a few questions that investigators might wanna ask:

  • Did Andy use his position as “SEIU President Emeritus” to gain access to top government decision-makers in order to help SIGA win the massive no-bid contract?
  • Did Ron Perelman, the main owner of SIGA Technologies, put Andy on SIGA’s board of directors (and give him 35,000 stock options) as payback for an earlier deal between the two men… when Stern reportedly sold out thousands of security guards employed by AlliedBarton, another company owned by Perelman?
  • How much money does King Andy stand to make as a result of SIGA’s $433 million contract?
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Truth Ruins Mary Kay Henry’s Feature Article in the NY Times

Tasty can imagine the scene… An excited SEIU President Mary Kay Henry grips her steaming soy latte and spreads out the Sunday edition of the New York Times so she can read a lengthy article that’s supposed to feature a sparkling profile of her. Super peachy keen!

Her eyes quickly scan the article and come to a sudden stop. Her jaw drops. WTF! The truth has finally caught up to her… like a dog that’s been chasing her for two years. And it catches Mary Kay right in the middle of her feature story in the New York Times!

And ya know what? This episode isn’t a figment of Tasty’s imagination. It actually took place on Sunday, when Mary Kay Henry’s airbrushed image was forced to confront just a little piece of the truth about the thuggish tactics she’s unleashed on SEIU’s members... Like the time she called the cops on an SEIU-UHW member simply because he wanted to attend his own union’s steward council meeting. Fortunately, the police refused to arrest the worker for the crime of “Attempting to Attend a Union Meeting.”

Here’s how the New York Times described it, ever so briefly, on Sunday:
“It got ugly, and Mary Kay was part of that episode,” said Mr. Brenner, the Labor Notes editor, and another Stern critic. At one union meeting in Walnut Creek, Calif., Ms. Henry called police to try and eject a dissident union member, but the officers left without doing so, Mr. Early wrote in “The Civil Wars.”

Tasty is hoping the reporter will describe more of MKH’s infamous episodes… like the time when she locked an elected bargaining committee of rank-and-file nursing home workers out of their own contract negotiations so that SEIU officials could ink a sell-out contract with their boss. During this episode in Oakland, California, the media covered the locked-out workers who chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Mary Kay has got to go.”

Well, Tasty hears that Mary Kay better watch out cuz that dog named “Truth” is gonna be chomping on her heels for a long time to come!

P.S. Check out this article by author Steve Early in The Nation about workers' battle with Kaiser Permanente. The article includes a revealing quote from Kaiser spokesperson John Nelson, who hints at SEIU’s back-room deal with Kaiser to slash workers’ pensions and health benefits. In the article, Nelson says Kaiser is merely trying “to find ways to contain costs in partnership with our unions. Both management and labor have a stake in the financial challenges we face and meeting rising health care costs and costs of pension benefits.”  Look out, Kaiser workers! Tasty smells a giant purple rat!