Thursday, July 10, 2014

SEIU Local 99 "did us dirty,” say workers

In Los Angeles, SEIU is making headlines over allegations of vote-rigging during a contract-ratification vote affecting 33,000 school employees.

Here's what's happening:

SEIU Local 99 has been negotiating with the Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of 33,000 employees who work as teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians and other positions. At the end of June, SEIU officials reached a tentative contract settlement and, according to workers, promptly deployed a bag of purple tricks aimed at winning a membership ratification vote at any cost.

First, Local 99's Executive Director, Courtni Pugh, ordered a rapid-fire ratification vote in which fewer than 8% of the workers actually cast ballots. Workers say SEIU failed to notify many union members about the vote. One writes: “The majority of Unit B was not notified, emailed, called or texted about the voting.”

Here's another piece of the story from a different Local 99 member:
Currently, many school employees are on Summer Recess with a majority of school sites closed until mid August, so lots of people that would have received their information at their worksite, may never have gotten word of a vote for contract ratification.
Next, SEIU lied about the pay hikes under the tentative agreement. 
The scene inside an SEIU polling place

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, “Union officials misrepresented that wage hike, passing out fliers and making statements that a 6.64 percent pay raise was ‘guaranteed.’ A close inspection of the contract, however,” revealed that more than 10,000 workers will receive increases of only 2%, according to the Daily News.

Next, SEIU officials changed the rules for the vote count. Here's how the Daily News describes it:
But the vote counting and contract ratification process was changed at the last minute.
 Prior to the three-day election that started Monday — and for as long as anyone can remember — each of Local 99’s four bargaining units had the individual right to accept or reject contracts by vote. The ballots for individual bargaining units — B, C, F and G — were labeled and printed on different colored paper and listed by the name of each unit. If a unit rejected the deal, that unit would go back to the bargaining table.
 But as union workers prepared to tally this contract’s ballots Wednesday night, staff announced a departure from standard voting procedure: All the ballots would be tossed into a single pool and tallied together.
 The tactic, Local 99 member and former political action committee chair Kathryn Torres said, was the latest in a series of dishonest and legally questionable plays union staff has employed.
 A faction of members, Torres said, will be looking to the courts and labor relations board for help.

“We are willing to take it as far as we have to, because right is right and wrong is wrong,” Torres said.
After the vote was finished, SEIU officials did backflips and exchanged high-fives while sending triumphant announcements to the membership. Here's a message posted by SEIU officials on Local 99’s Facebook page: 
We did it! The votes are counted and we ratified the agreement with LAUSD. 82% VOTED YES!
Meanwhile, here's how one union member responded:
Yes, you did it alright. You alienated members by blocking them from your Facebook page when they dared to disagree with you. You rushed a vote through while many of your members were out of town. You lied to the media about how much of a raise we were being offered. You instructed our own union reps to not talk to anyone who disagreed with the contract. You got us nothing for a raise and yet you charge us higher union dues than administrators pay. You did it alright. You got me wondering if there is a way to opt out of the union. I have been told that there is.

Another member put it this way: “They misled us. That’s why a lot of us members are upset and angry, because our own union did us dirty…”