Big Labor split explains violent thuggery

Getting to the root of this unionizing rift

Could it be that the fight to collectively bargain for Nevadan nurses is not limited to two unions, but rather between the two largest union conglomerations in the nation? On the surface it appears as a fight between the Service Employees International Union and the California Nurses Association.

But the torn history between the service workers' union and the AFL-CIO (which the nurses' association is affiliated with) could be the real reason behind the current rift, as well as the steady decline in union membership across the country.

In a letter forwarded to In Business Las Vegas from the California Nurses Union, and apparently signed by Jennifer Bergschneider, regional district director of the Labor Department, the service workers' union was found to be in violation of four provisions of the federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The Labor Department would neither confirm nor deny whether it was investigating the service workers' union Local 1107, the union's Las Vegas chapter and its alleged illegal use of employer funds to support particular candidates for office.

But in the letter (again, forwarded to the paper by the union trying to displace the service workers' union), Bergschneider states "these findings are not to be construed as a final determination by the Secretary of Labor (Elaine Chao) that violations have occurred, which may have affected the outcome of the election."

The investigation has discovered that Members United to Win candidates (a group associated with Jane McAlevey, executive director of the service workers' union) used union funds to promote select candidates through the use of membership lists, used $5,000 from a "solidarity fund" from service workers' union district 1199 (Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia), used employer funds through Phil Giarrizzo Campaigns printing and mailing campaign materials to promote select candidates and used employer funds to promote candidates of one slate at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - Siena Campus, while candidates on the opposing side were denied access.

Hillary Haycock, spokeswoman for the service workers' union, said the charges, as she terms the Labor Department's findings, will turn out to be unjustified.

"We're really confident that they are going to uphold the elections that happened in November once they finish the whole process," she said.

The two unions have been at each others' throats for the past several months, as unionization campaigns have either been stymied, such as the failed organization effort of Ohio nurses by the service workers' union and the loss of St. Mary's hospital nurses to the California Nurses Association.

Then there was a scuffle between service workers' association and AFL-CIO members in Dearborn, Mich., in early April at a Labor Notes meeting where the California Nurses Association president was scheduled to speak, the Associated Press reported.

The nurses' association says the service workers' association stormed the union hall, while the other side says its protesters were pushed and shoved.

The nurses' association has launched a campaign, SEIU Watch, reworking the acronym to read "Serving Employers Instead of Us."

In response, the service workers' union has launched the "Shame on CNA" campaign.

Haycock questioned the nurses' association's motives in ousting the service employees' union, adding that the majority of hospitals across the country have no union representation.

"What's happening here in Nevada is very different, I think, than the SEIU-CNA fight nationally, because here the nurses are already unionized," she said. "They are SEIU nurses ... They are actively in bargaining right now, putting together proposals and trying to figure out how to improve their contract."

Haycock said that although the failed election by Ohio nurses to join the service workers' union was "horrible," the nurses' association action in Nevada is different.

"That type of stuff that's been happening on more of a national level isn't going on here in Nevada," she said.

In July 2005 the service workers' union split from the AFL-CIO, ending the 50-year partnership after service workers' union leadership unsuccessfully called on the union conglomerate to reform, the Washington Post reported at the time. The Teamsters joined the service workers' union in the exodus, adding to the AFL-CIO's already declining membership, the newspaper reported.

The service workers' union, the country's largest labor union with 1.9 million members, and the Teamsters went on to form the rival union conglomeration, Change to Win. Unite Here, whose membership includes the Culinary Workers Local 226, is a Change to Win member.

The nurses' association represents 80,000 nurses in 170 facilities, according to its Web site.

The service workers' union in Nevada, led by McAlevey, represents 17,500 hospital workers and nurses, as well as public-sector employees.

And the internal strife doesn't seem to be limited to the nurses who the service workers' union represents.

In a YouTube video, Connie Kalski, a courtroom clerk and service workers' union member, said, "I've been there when board members have told me to shut up. This is how the executive board of local 1107 now behaves."

It's not the members of service workers' union who are engaging in the Teamsters-esque behavior, but rather the staff, whose salaries are paid by members' dues, said Chuck Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association.

When asked if the service workers' union is replacing the Teamsters of the 20th century, Idelson said, "Some people say that."

"Just because you don't get your way, you can't result to bullying and threats," he added. "They think their behavior is innocent. It's harassment."

"SEIU Nevada does not engage in harassing or bullying behaviors," Haycock said. "That's just not how we operate. If you really want to look at what is harassing behavior, I think a union like CNA going into a hospital where there is already a union and membership is high and workers are at the table to negotiate a new contract, I think that is a better example of bullying."

The members of the service workers' union are employed not only as hospital workers and nurses, but also county employees and public health workers, she said.

"Their day jobs are helping our community and that's kind of what folks are focused on over here," Haycock said.

- Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun.



Anonymous said...

Corruption in UHW has grown so big that SEIU has to put trusteeship on it and remove Sal Roselli,who has stolen millions of dollar from union fund and put it in his account.Womenising,liquorising,gambling,terrorizing is the way of life in UHW.If a member raises any voice against these corrupt bosses,that person is removed from UHW leadership.It is time for John Sweeney to make his move and remove Andy stern,Sal Roselli.Make one union for whole nation.

Anonymous said...

Must add our two cents:

Ms. Lucht is sort of close to hitting the nail on the head with her piece. However, she doesn't take it where it needs to go...back to basics. And, perhaps because she's not a dude, she's over-thinking it...(no offense, Ms. Lucht.)

You see, this is nothing more than a grudge match between two guys who used to be friends....Except they're letting CHICKS DO THEIR FIGHTING FOR THEM.

Like two old pervs going down to the neighborhood Hooters to check out the Tuesday night mud-wrestling match, the dudes in DC are just hanging back (plausible deniability), checking out the chicks ripping each other apart, hoping the one he's betting on won't lose her top before the other does.

These two three-pieced pimps of power are letting CHICKS do their fighting for them, placing their bets, and each are hoping they don't get too covered in the dirt themselves.


Like most street fights over who controls the corner, Andy Stern, the former student, picked a fight with his old boss John Sweeney a few years ago over money. (Stern wanted to spend the cash on getting more Johns to visit the bordello, while Sweeney wanted the money to go to the politicians for protection).

Stern called his old boss out in front of the whole neighborhood and, while Boss Sweeney showed remarkable restraint, he didn't give in.

It should be noted that Boss Sweeney could have squashed Stern then and there (and, in hind sight, he may be wishing he did), but he let the little traitor shoot his mouth off for months and months.

As the Spring of 2005 went on, like a drunk at the bar, Stern's ramblings got louder, his insults more insulting and Boss Sweeney showed remarkable tolerance and restraint as his former friend slapped him in the face. As a result, Stern got even more upset and decided to try to burn the House of Labor down. By Summer, Stern split the K Street Crew, and almost half the gang went with Stern.

Well, as it turns out, barely a year later, the 2006 elections proved Old Boss Sweeney was right.

Now, Stern's got egg on his face. His gang hasn't grown much and he's back to backing politicians with millions of dollars.

Over the last couple of years, as though having taken a lesson from The Godfather, Boss Sweeney's been patiently lining up his new crew, the California Nurses Association, and waiting for the right time to strike back.

That day came a few weeks ago, when the CNA went to Ohio and snatched 8,000 workers from the SEIU in an SEIU-staged election.

Predictably, like Sonny Corleone whose temper always got the best of him, the younger Stern struck back by sending SEIU thugs to the Labor Notes conference to disrupt in typical SEIU fashion, but it backfired...A woman went to the hospital, an SEIU member died, and its been a PR war ever since.

Unfortunately for Stern, Boss Sweeney's got the upper hand in this war, his moral authority ratings are slightly higher in the world of labor opinion (not that that really matters).

However, until Andy Stern grows up and offers his old boss an apology and kisses Boss Sweeney's ring, it appears that the mud-slinging will continue between the SEIU and AFL-CIO's CNA.

In the meantime, although we wish we had some buttery popcorn, we are having fun watching the melee and reading the dueling press releases. Everyday more mud is thrown and more flesh exposed by this hypocritical internecine war, the more the public sees today's unions for what they are: Parasites living off the blood of America's productive workers.

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