Tuesday, June 4, 2013

California Appeals Court: Civil Lawsuit against Top SEIU Officials for Campaign of Violence Must Go Forward

On Friday, a California appeals court announced an important legal victory for four rank-and-file healthcare workers and three NUHW officers in their lawsuit against SEIU. Tasted has pasted a copy of the decision below.

The unanimous decision, issued by a panel of appeals judges, orders a lower court to go forward with a civil lawsuit against SEIU’s top officials including President Mary Kay Henry, Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, President Emeritus Andy Stern, former Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger and SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan.

The lawsuit alleges that SEIU violated civil rights laws by carrying out a plan of assault, battery, intimidation, threat and coercion in an effort to silence SEIU's critics.

Here are the details:

In 2011, the rank-and-file workers and NUHW officers filed the lawsuit against SEIU. (Interestingly, some of the rank-and-file workers are actually SEIU’s own members.)  

Next, SEIU’s attorneys got a judge to improperly toss out the lawsuit. The workers and NUHW’s officers fought back and just won a unanimous decision from an appeals court that orders the lower court to proceed with the lawsuit. In addition, the judges forced SEIU to repay nearly $60,000 to the workers and NUHW officers along with unspecified costs for the appeals process.

The lawsuit was triggered by SEIU’s multiple acts of violence, threats and intimidation against NUHW supporters during SEIU’s infamous trusteeship of SEIU-UHW.

According to the appeals judges’ decision, the original lawsuit contains 25 paragraphs alleging “specific acts of assault, battery, intimidation, threat and coercion directed at plaintiffs and other NUHW supporters by persons purportedly affiliated with the SEIU.” These acts include…
SEIU agents threw eggs and water bottles at plaintiffs and other NUHW supporters at a Los Angeles event in November 2009.

SEIU hired armed security guards who surveilled, videotaped, and intimidated them.

SEIU agents have made multiple death threats to plaintiff Glasper, followed her to medical appointments, physically grabbed her NUHW badge, and threatened and attempted to strike her.

SEIU agents yelled at, pushed, assaulted, and threatened defendants Borsos, Rosselli, and Cornejo, and NUHW supporter, Dolores Huerta, at numerous other workplace meetings with health care employees.
And that's just the beginning!

SEIU said these acts of violence were simply “free speech,” and then attempted to get the lawsuit tossed out of court. The appeals judges unanimously rejected SEIU’s argument, writing:

Defendants [SEIU] maintain all or most of these allegations were also "constitutionally-protected speech activities" taking place in connection with a public issue--the labor dispute between SEIU and NUHW. We disagree. Conduct illegal as a matter of law is not protected… Threats of violence or bodily injury are not protected activities...
The allegations against nondefendant SEIU members included multiple and repeated acts of assault and battery, threats of violence and death, property damage, and physically accosting and surrounding NUHW supporters in a threatening manner. The gravamen of all three of plaintiffs' causes of action is illegal conduct--violence, assault, threats of physical harm, intimidation, and coercion--that is constitutionally unprotected. (p. 7)

The appeals judges' decision also contains this excerpt referring to both SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan:
These paragraphs alleged, inter alia, (1) defendants had a policy and practice of utilizing physical intimidation against individuals and other unions they came to perceive as their "'enemies'" in the labor movement; (2) defendants had carried out their policy of intimidation on specified occasions to break into and attack meetings held by enemy unions and individuals other than plaintiffs; (3) at a January 2009 meeting with SEIU agents in Las Vegas, individual defendant Henry instructed members on tactics of intimidation to be used against plaintiffs and their supporters and told the members, "You are SEIU's warriors!"; and (4) in a campaign leading up to a representation election in Fresno between SEIU and NUWH, defendant Regan instructed a large gathering of SEIU agents to intimidate NUWH supporters, to "give them an ass-whipping," to "drive a stake through [their] hearts," to "bury them . . . in the ground," and to threaten Hispanic workers that the immigration service would be called on them if they did not vote for SEIU.  (p. 3)
Regan's speech to his "old school" friends in Fresno was famously captured in multiple YouTube videos, including this one.

What’s next?

The lower court will now go forward with the lawsuit. Hmm... Tasty would love to see Mary Kay Henry, Andy Stern and Dave Regan squirming on the witness stand!

Stay tuned!