Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Federal Judge Slams Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-UHW; Orders NUHW's Lawsuit against "Sweetheart Deal" to Proceed

In a second legal victory for NUHW in as many weeks, a federal judge has ordered a blockbuster lawsuit filed by NUHW against Kaiser Permanente to proceed in federal court.

The lawsuit alleges that Kaiser officials gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to SEIU-UHW as a way to fund SEIU-UHW’s two NLRB election campaigns against NUHW for 45,000 Kaiser workers.

Under federal law (Section 302 of the Labor-Management Relations Act), employers are strictly prohibited from giving money to unions or union officials. The law, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1947, is designed to prevent corporations from corrupting their unions by 'buying' union officials through financial contributions and thereby securing their loyalty and subservience.

In this case, Kaiser aided its “labor-management partner” at SEIU-UHW by allowing hundreds of SEIU-UHW’s shop stewards and supporters to take “leaves of absence” or “lost time” from their regular jobs in order to campaign for SEIU-UHW during the giant NLRB elections. And while these Purple supporters were campaigning for SEIU-UHW, Kaiser paid for all of their benefits -- including their health insurance, pension contributions, vacation pay, sick leave, etc.

In his eight-page decision (see below), the federal judge rips into both Kaiser and SEIU-UHW.

No court has ever held that employers can pay employees under a collective bargaining agreement to campaign under the control of the incumbent union against a rival union. One evil Congress wished to resist was a sweetheart cozy arrangement between the incumbent union boss and the company, for such arrangements persist at the expense of the workers. Yes, the employer likes doing business with such unions. But indirect contributions as alleged here would violate the purpose of Section 302 “to prevent bribery, extortion, shakedowns, and other corrupt practices.”

Corruption much, SEIU and Kaiser?

The judge notes that prior to SEIU’s trusteeship of SEIU-UHW in 2009, Kaiser approved “no more than a handful” of lost-time requests for workers to do traditional contract enforcement and representation work.

But things quickly changed after SEIU’s DC officials parachuted into California… and Dave Regan began whispering promises into Kaiser’s ear. Here’s how an article in the BNA’s “Daily Labor Report” describes it (see full article below):

Once the campaign against NUHW was under way, the union alleged, Kaiser approved hundreds of such requests, allowing SEIU-UHW to use the lost-time employees to campaign against the SEIU affiliate's rival union.

According to the judge, this is strictly illegal.

Kaiser is here allegedly violating the agreement by intentionally placing workers on lost-time status to campaign against a rival union and dramatically increasing the number of employees on compensated leave for such campaigning...

Under the new pleading, therefore, Kaiser exceeded the scope of the original agreement and simply gave money to SEIU-UHW. During the representation campaign, to repeat, Kaiser released “hundreds of employees” on lost-time leave to campaign against NUHW (Dkt. No. 60 at 11). The lost-timers did campaign against plaintiff NUHW and Kaiser provided benefits and other things of value to the lost-timers while they were released on lost-time leave (ibid.). This was tantamount to making cash campaign contributions to SEIU-UHW to assist SEIU-UHW in fending off the upstart rival NUHW.

Way to go, NUHW!

Here’s a little-known fact about the federal law (Section 302) that's at issue here:  violations can be prosecuted as criminal offenses! Of course, it’s unclear if Kaiser’s executives -- such as CEO George Halvorson and COO Bernard Tyson -- could be criminally prosecuted in this case… But Tasty can dream, right?

The next step in the lawsuit is “discovery,” where NUHW will be allowed to subpoena tons of information from Kaiser and will also get the right to question Kaiser’s fat-cat executives while they're under oath!

Here's the judge's eight-page ruling. The BNA's two-page article is below.

Here's the article entitled: "Court Lets NUHW Pursue Section 302 Claim Kaiser 'Lost-Time' Approvals Aided SEIU-UHW" dated June 17, 2013: