Thursday, October 4, 2018

Election Begins at SEIU Local 73 Following Two-Year Trusteeship and Court Battle

Remember SEIU’s trusteeship of Local 73 in Chicago, which represents 25,000 public-sector workers in Illinois and Northwestern Indiana?

In August 2016, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry imposed the trusteeship based on the claim that tensions between the local union’s top two officers were disrupting it. She appointed Eliseo Medina, Dian Palmer and Denise Poloyac as trustees.

Eighteen months later, members of Local 73 sued SEIU and asked a federal judge to end the trusteeship and allow Local 73’s members to elect a president and Executive Board. Under federal law, a trusteeship is presumed to be invalid after 18 months.

That lawsuit -- known as Hunter vs SEIU -- was filed in February 2018 in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. This summer, a federal judge held a five-day hearing on the suit.

One month after the hearing concluded, the SEIU trustees announced officer elections. Earlier this week, mail-in ballots were sent to the union’s members and are due back October 23, according to a timeline posted on Local 73’s website.
Remzi Jaos

Initially, SEIU’s elections committee tried to block the opposition slate’s leading candidate from appearing on the ballot. Eventually, they backed down and Remzi Jaos, a candidate of the “Members Leading Members” slate, is on the ballot as a candidate for the president of Local 73. The slate is campaigning on a platform of returning control to local members.

Jaos formerly directed Local 73’s Higher Education Division and before that was a staffer at SEIU Local 1 and the Illinois Nurses Association, according to his bio on the “Members Leading Members” website. See below a photo of the slate’s candidates.

At the top of SEIU’s slate is Dian Palmer, who’s been one of SEIU’s appointed trustees at Local 73. Before that, she was the president of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. She’s also a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board.

The “Members Leading Members” slate says SEIU officials changed internal rules to allow Palmer and other SEIU staffers to qualify as candidates for the election. Here’s how they describe it in a leaflet:
In a sneaky move in July, Palmer got the International to waive the 2-year membership requirement for her and the other trustees. This waiver was done before any Local 73 members were notified by the Election Committee that the two-year membership requirement was changed to a six-month membership requirement!

Another SEIU staffer, Jeffrey Howard, is a candidate for the Executive Vice President. Howard, an “Assistant Area Director” for SEIU International, began working on the trusteeship team at the beginning of 2018.

In a September 26th filing in federal court, the plaintiffs in Hunter vs SEIU express additional concerns about the integrity of the voting system and the security of the ballots once they’re sent to an outside agency hired by SEIU to oversee the election. For example, they raise concerns about how "replacement ballots" will be issued and tracked, and how ballots returned as "undeliverable" will be handled and accounted for.

Stay tuned!