Thursday, April 17, 2008

Restraining Order Against SEIU Stalkers; SEIU Protesters Attack at Labor Conference

Nurses from California have obtained a restraining order against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) after being stalked and harassed at their homes. This follows a weekend incident where SEIU protesters got physical in their effort to disrupt a labor conference, injuring one retiree badly enough to send her to the hospital.

Restraining Order Against SEIU to Protect Nurses

In a California Progress Report piece, California Nurses Association (CNA) President Deborah Burger provided examples of the intimidation which drove CNA to requesting the restraining order:

Thursday afternoon, CNA/NNOC Board member Margie Keenan, RN was home alone when she peered out her window to see four SEIU staff. When they saw her they started "screaming and trying to scare me" Kennan explained. She later learned that SEIU staff had first gone to her nursing unit in a Long Beach, Ca. hospital trying to find her.

A second CNA/NNOC Board member Debbie Cuaresma, RN found five young SEIU staff show up at her house taunting and yelling first at her, then at her daughter. "I am appalled that five bullies would come to my house with cameras and hurl abuse at my daughter. I believe this to be nothing less than a violation of my family's privacy," she says.

Burger sees SEIU's recent actions as a continuation of a pattern of SEIU's paternalistic attitude toward a predominantly female workforce, citing the recent case in Ohio as one example. The Ohio episode involved a backroom deal SEIU signed with a Catholic hospital chain ... under which the employer filed for an election without a single signed union card from RNs or other employees and even barring the employees from discussing the vote. The employer and SEIU cancelled the election when their shoddy deal was exposed and it was apparent they had only minimal support from those employees SEIU was purporting to represent.

Burger condemns SEIU's strategy of trading concessions for organizing rights, arguing the deals work against the interests of health care workers and the patients they care for:

  • Under a 2003 pact in California, SEIU agreed to oppose legislation requiring nursing homes to provide enough staff to keep patients safe and healthy, and to not report health care violations to state regulators except in extreme cases when required by law.
  • Five years later, according to a report cited in the Los Angeles Times this week, despite increased state funding for nursing homes, the direct result of SEIU lobbying, nursing homes are spending less in California on direct patient care, and reports of patient mistreatment have shot up.
  • Similarly, in partnership with hospital corporations, SEIU lobbied in California against the RN-to-patient minimum ratio law, and worked to erode the law after it was enacted.
  • In New York, SEIU joined with the Greater New York Hospital Association in supporting the closure of more than a dozen hospitals and nursing homes, proudly issuing a joint statement that "We are surely the only hospital association and health-care workers union in the history of the United States to support a process that could lead to the downsizing of our own industry."

SEIU Violence at Labor Notes Conference

On Saturday, hundreds of SEIU protesters broke into the 2008 Labor Notes Conference banquet in Dearborn, Michigan, sending at least one retired auto industry worker, Dianne Feeley, to the hospital with a head wound. SEIU boasts in a press release of sending over 800 SEIU members to disrupt the dinner, omitting apologies for or even mention of the violence, and characterizes the melee as [standing] up for the future of the labor movement.

The Labor Notes article on the incident notes that SEIU is not the first union to protest at the event, but they were the only one, in 29 years, to storm [the] conference, or assault the brothers and sisters who attend it. The Labor Notes report says:

It is important to note that SEIU’s planned disruption would have frightened and intimidated hundreds of union members who are not party to their dispute with CNA. In the crowded banquet hall, in which there was barely room between tables; in the panic people undoubtedly would have been injured. As it was, the entire waitstaff, members of UNITE HERE Local 24, fled. We are grateful to the conference-goers whose quick thinking managed to keep the protest contained.

The eyewitness accounts are frightening, describing SEIU protesters knocking people to the ground and trampling them, hitting people with their signs, and shouting and banging on the doors with fists and signs.

CSUEU is SEIU Local 2579.


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