Friday, April 27, 2018

SEIU-UHW Spends $14M on Ballot Initiatives in 14 Months

SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan

While tens of thousands of teachers are striking and winning in multiple states, SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan is pursuing a very different approach to building the labor movement.

Since 2009 (when Regan was appointed the union’s trustee), SEIU-UHW has conducted virtually no strikes whatsoever despite being one of the largest unions in California.

Instead of organizing workers, Regan has diverted tens of millions of dollars from SEIU-UHW’s budget into ballot initiatives. In 2017, he spent approximately $10 million of SEIU-UHW’s budget on ballot initiatives -- about 10% of the union’s budget. In 2018, he’s on track to spend even more.

What’s Regan trying to do?

Basically, he’s hoping he can use the threat of ballot initiatives to pressure healthcare companies into deals with him. That’s what he tried to do (unsuccessfully) with the California Hospital Association.

This year, he’s trying to put nine initiatives on the California ballot. Two of them target DaVita, a kidney dialysis company where SEIU-UHW’s organizing efforts were unsuccessful, according to NLRB records.

Another initiative targets Watsonville Community Hospital, where SEIU-UHW has been unsuccessful in negotiating a contract for its members. Other initiatives target Stanford Health Care, where SEIU-UHW was unsuccessful in organizing workers at one of Stanford’s hospitals. And there are others.

Will Regan’s ballot initiatives be successful?

So far, none of his 20+ ballot initiatives has succeeded during the past seven years. That is… they haven’t led SEIU-UHW to organize a single worker. And that’s after Regan spent approximately $30 million on these initiatives. Not a record to write home about.
A DaVita dialysis clinic
How much is Regan spending on his 2018 ballot initiatives?

Beaucoup bucks.

In 2017, he spent approximately $10 million, according to SEIU-UHW’s DOL Form LM-2.

For example, he paid $1.2 million to a company to collect voters’ signatures to qualify initiatives for the ballot (Kimball Petition Management). He paid more than a half million dollars to polling firms to survey voters about his initiatives (ALG Research and Fairbanks Maslin Maullin Metz & Associates, Inc.). He spent another half million on lawyers, advertising firms, media agents, consultants and travel.

Regan gave the biggest chunk of change ($7.3 million) to a spinoff organization he created called “The Fairness Project.” The organization, which is headed by SEIU-UHW staffer Steve Trossman (he’s the organization’s “President”), not only supports ballot initiatives in California but also tries to spread their use in other states by funding various initiatives. According to the organization’s website, it has backed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, and establish laws around paid sick time in a dozen states.

The website, however, doesn’t say whether “The Fairness Project” is also funding Regan’s ballot initiatives against the dialysis industry in Arizona and Ohio, which Regan filed recently in an apparent effort to intensify his pressure on DaVita.

After spending roughly $10 million in 2017, Regan spent millions more during the first few of months of 2018. In February, for example, SEIU-UHW paid $3.5 million to buy TV, newspaper and online ads in California, Washington DC, Colorado and Massachusetts targeting DaVita and Fresenius (another kidney dialysis company), according to a press release issued by SEIU-UHW.

And things are about to get much more expensive.

Earlier this month, SEIU-UHW submitted 600,000 signatures to the state, and is now waiting to hear whether its kidney dialysis initiatives have qualified for the November 2018 ballot.

In response, DaVita and Fresenius have begun airing TV and online ads attacking SEIU-UHW and its ballot initiatives. They also launched a website called
Image from dialysis industry's ad against SEIU-UHW
Of course, it’s possible the corporations will get nervous and decide to try to cut some kind of deal with Regan to get the initiatives off the ballot.

It’s also possible these deep-pocketed corporate giants will decide to go toe-to-toe with Regan at the ballot box. The companies have lots of money -- $3.9 billion in combined profits in 2016, according to SEIU-UHW. This would force Regan to spend tens of millions on a costly campaign to try to win the vote. California, the most populous state in the nation, is notoriously expensive when it comes to elections -- tens of millions of voters spread across some of the most expensive media markets in the nation.

Aside from its costliness and lack of success, a larger problem with Regan’s approach is it turns unions into a kind of Political Action Committee (PAC) run by technocrats and consultants rather than well-organized, worker-led organizations capable of exerting their power on the shop floor to get a fair share from corporations. Most observers agree we need to build the latter kind of union, not Regan’s PAC version.

For example, imagine if Regan had spent $30 million on actually organizing workers instead of funding failed ballot initiatives?

Labor leaders like Regan, when they don’t have the ability or will to lead workers to fight, often look for crutches… like ballot initiatives. In this case, Regan’s crutch appears to have become his entire strategy.

Friday, April 20, 2018

This Former SEIU Official Wishes You a Happy 4/20 Day

In celebration of 4/20 Day, Tasty thought he’d pass along the news that former SEIU official Tyrone Freeman has apparently developed an expertise in California’s booming marijuana industry.

According to his consulting firm’s website, Freeman would gladly help you with everything from manufacturing and cultivation to dispensary and distribution.

But wait… you better not dawdle. According to his website,

“Act now! Availability is limited.”

Freeman -- a close ally of SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern and Dave Regan -- has emulated Stern’s entrepreneurial spirit by setting up his own consulting firm called Maven Innovative Consultancy, LLC.

Of course, business comes naturally to Freeman.

During his federal criminal trial, prosecutors revealed how he made multiple secret deals with corrupt insurance companies, consultants and others to illegally divert buckets of workers’ money into his own pocket.

Freeman, whose love of Cuban cigars helped land him in a prison in South Dakota, is apparently hoping a different sort of smokable product will become his “green gold.”

Who knows? Perhaps Stern – who’s become a high-paid consultant for Uber, Airbnb, Handy and other tech companies – will join forces with Freeman to develop a pioneering marijuana app.

Here’s an excerpt from Freeman’s website:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan Fires Kaiser Coalition's Executive Director

Dave Regan

According to internal sources, Dave Regan -- the newly named Chairman of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) -- has fired its Executive Director, Hal Ruddick. Ruddick’s last day will be Friday, April 20.

Ruddick will be replaced by an “interim” executive director, Walter Allen, say Tasty’s sources. Allen is the Executive Director and CFO of OPEIU Local 30, which represents 6,500 office and clerical workers in Southern California.

As reported earlier, Regan has been feuding with Ruddick for some time despite the fact that Ruddick was one of Regan’s loyal lieutenants at SEIU-UHW. In fact, in 2013 Regan put Ruddick into his job atop the CKPU after its prior Executive Director, John August, was ousted following wide-ranging allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.

In 2012, August became the center of a spiraling scandal after he reportedly sexually harassed a Kaiser partnership staffer who, upon quitting, turned in her phone… which contained comprising files and e-mails implicating August.

According to Tasty’s sources, Walter Allen plans to show up tomorrow at Kaiser’s national headquarters in the Ordway Building on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt, where the Executive Director of the CKPU maintains a fancy, rent-free office courtesy of Kaiser’s executives. Perhaps Allen will do some remodeling.

Today’s developments are the latest in a series of dizzying events that have seen Kaiser’s so-called “partnership unions” split in two like a rotten peach.

Three weeks ago, eight of the 11 international unions in the labor-management partnership announced they were quitting the CKPU because they couldn’t work with Dave Regan, whom they accused of trying to orchestrate a power grab.

Days later, the eight international unions -- the Teamsters, Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, UFCW, ILWU, Operating Engineers and the KPNAA -- announced they had hired Pete diCicco as the Executive Director of their newly formed coalition, the Alliance of Health Care Unions.

Kaiser's HQ in Oakland
Meanwhile, Regan quickly ascended to the position of the Chairman of the Board of the CKPU, which has only three international unions as its remaining members (SEIU, OPEIU and IFPTE). Apparently, it’s from his position as Chairman inside the CKPU’s increasingly empty board room that Regan fired Ruddick.

Ruddick’s firing and his replacement by a presumably temporary “interim executive director” signals even more instability inside the CKPU. Tasty hears there's great nervousness among the CKPU’s staff about layoffs now that a substantial portion of its sponsoring unions have quit.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Workers Battle SEIU over Chicago Trusteeship

May Kay Henry and Eliseo Medina

Members of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago are making headway in ending SEIU’s nearly two-year-long trusteeship of their local union, according to inside sources and federal court documents.

In fact, one source says SEIU may be forced to hold internal officer elections sometime during the summer or fall. They say SEIU officials have already picked out an SEIU staffer to serve as their candidate for president of the local.

Here’s the latest:

On February 7, 2018, several members of Local 73 filed another lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to end SEIU’s trusteeship and to order SEIU to hold democratic elections so union members can choose a board and officers to run their local union. The lawsuit – which names SEIU, Mary Kay Henry and Eliseo Medina as defendants -- is based on a federal law that says a trusteeship “shall be presumed invalid...” after 18 months. (See below for a copy of the lawsuit: Hunter et al v. Service Employees International Union et al.)

Even though the trusteeship is now more than 20 months old, SEIU hasn’t taken any steps to end it. In fact, says the lawsuit, SEIU officials have tried to suppress members’ efforts to restore local control. Here’s an excerpt from the lawsuit:
At the last general membership meeting on September 23, 2017, a nomination from a member on the floor was made to commence elections, it was properly seconded by another member, yet then Trustee Denise Poloyac unilaterally rejected the Motion and declared, contrary to previous representations, that the meeting was not a “general membership meeting.”
…The Plaintiffs and the general membership of the Local 73 will suffer harm if the current Trusteeship is not discontinued because it would deprive the general membership of the officers and executive board members of their choosing, from inside their membership, rather than the leadership and direction improperly imposed upon them from the International Union when the same is invalid as a matter of law.

Next, things got worse.

According to the lawsuit, union members created a slate of candidates called “Members Leading Members,” established a website, and collected signatures from more than 2,000 members in support of the slate.

Just four days after the website went live on January 4, 2018, “seven of the officer candidates listed on the slate posted on the “Members for Members” website were unilaterally suspended, without notice and without due process or hearing,” according to the lawsuit. Two days later, all seven of the candidates were fired by the SEIU trustees. (These candidates were members of SEIU Local 73’s staff.)

Yesterday, a federal judge held a preliminary hearing on the latest lawsuit during which she rejected a motion by SEIU’s attorneys and “encouraged [SEIU and the members who are suing it] to negotiate conditions for reasonably prompt resumption of local control, and free and fair elections.” Another hearing will happen in three weeks.

So which SEIU International staffer has been fingered to run as SEIU International’s candidate for president of Local 73?

According to Tasty’s sources, it’s Jeffrey Howard

SEIU assigned Howard, an “Assistant Area Director” for SEIU International, to work at Local 73 just four months ago. Under SEIU's rules, a person must be a member in good standing of the local union for at least two years in order to qualify as a candidate for office. So how can Jeff Howard actually run to become president of Local 73?

“Jeff was asked about the fact that he has only been a member of Local 73 for four months,” says a source, “and his reply was Mary Kay [Henry] has waived the two-year membership requirement!”

For more information about SEIU’s trusteeship and a look back at Dave Regan’s violent attack on a nationwide meeting of union reformers some nine years ago (during which one SEIU member died), check out an article by labor journalist Steve Early:  Purple bullying, ten years later: SEIU trustees trample membership rights,” Monthly Review, April 1, 2018.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kaiser Unions: “Adios, Dave!”

Pete diCicco

Just days after ditching the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions because of SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan, 21 Kaiser unions indicated their departure isn’t mere bluster or a negotiating tactic. They’re already taking steps to build a new coalition of partnership unions for the long haul.

The unions -- the Teamsters, Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, UFCW, ILWU, Operating Engineers and the KPNAA -- hired Pete diCicco as the Executive Director of their new coalition, according to a press release issued on March 30.

Why is this important?

diCicco was one of the founders of the Kaiser labor-management partnership in 1997 and served as the Executive Director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions for its first decade. diCicco -- whose bio is described in the press release below – has deep relationships with Kaiser executives as well as Kaiser’s unions. He knows how Kaiser and the partnership work.

By hiring diCicco, the new coalition of unions -- called the Alliance of Health Care Unions -- showed they have a plan, are quickly executing it, and are here to stay.

Meanwhile, Regan can’t seem to stop himself from lapsing into his volatile, “old school” ways. In addition to trash-talking his former union allies as sell-outs and “the small unions,” he reportedly demanded this week that Kaiser executives refuse to deal with the new coalition of unions, which happens to represent more than 45,000 workers.

Great move, Dave!

According to Tasty’s sources, the local dog catcher carries more weight inside Kaiser’s HQ than Regan, especially given Dave’s most recent ballot initiative blunder.

In other drama, Regan is reportedly feuding with his coalition’s Executive Director, Hal “Purple Lies” Ruddick. This should be interesting now that Dave has named himself as the “Chairman of the Board” at the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

Based on Regan’s past behavior, the members of Regan’s coalition are in for a rough ride. 

Fasten your seatbelts!