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As SEIU Prepares Hostile Takeover of United Healthcare Workers, Surveillance of Local Union Office Ends in Assault by Off-Duty Police Officer
Date:1/18/2009

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Days before national SEIU officials are expected to launch a hostile takeover of United Healthcare Workers (UHW), an off-duty police officer apparently hired as a private investigator aggressively photographed members of the local union and assaulted a UHW staff member.

"Before I even saw the man watching us I could tell something was wrong," said Andrea Carol, a UHW member and food service worker at Children's Hospital in Oakland. "I have been in that parking lot so many times as a member of UHW and it just felt different. I can't believe that SEIU International would pay someone to harass us like this. I know they are itching to take over our union, but we have the right to meet in our own union office and come and go without feeling watched and spied on."

At 6:00AM Saturday, staff and members of United Healthcare Workers (UHW) first noticed suspicious activity outside UHW's Oakland office.

Around 7:00AM, staff and members confronted suspicious men outside the United Healthcare Workers office, near Broadway on Thomas L. Berkeley Way in Oakland. When UHW staff asked the men what they were doing, they claimed it was nothing to do with the union and that it was no one's business who they were.

Members coming into the office began complaining to staff that they were being watched and photographed outside. UHW staff again confronted the men and asked them to stop photographing because it was making members uncomfortable. The men refused, so UHW staff called the police.

While waiting for police to arrive, the surveillance got more aggressive, with a man between the parking lot and the back entrance getting closer and closer to members while photographing them.

"I felt really intimidated," said Anita Cook, UHW shop steward for 9 years and a unit clerk at Kindred Hospital in San Leandro. "It was scary to know there was that kind of hostility against us when we have been doing everything the way we're supposed to. What I saw today, I don't feel that we members of this union deserve that kind of treatment. It was intimidating and it was humiliating."

Oakland police arrived, but after speaking with the man the police simply left the scene.

Within minutes, the man began driving back and forth in front of the building and across UHW's back driveway, constantly taking photographs of the building and of members coming and going. After he drove into a staff member's car and spit at him, staff called the police again. The man finally identified himself as a police officer, but refused to give his name or show a badge.

When uniformed police arrived for the second time, an Oakland Police officer spoke with the man who assaulted a staff member, and then returned to UHW witnesses and asked about the local union's dispute with "the International." When asked, the uniformed police officer refused to confirm or deny that the man was working on behalf of SEIU International.

The man never revealed his identity to UHW staff and members, and Oakland police refused to supply the information.

SEIU International President Andy Stern held hearings last year to justify a hostile takeover, or "trusteeship," of UHW, which has advocated for democratic reform in SEIU and opposed many of Stern's policies. Stern appointed former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall as a hearing officer to decide whether the local union should be put under trusteeship, and Marshall had announced he would issue his decision no later than January 15. SEIU delayed the release of the hearing officer's decision and announced that Marshall will not issue his decision publicly, but only to Stern. Many observers believe he intends to launch a takeover of UHW this week, regardless of Marshall's decision.

With more than 150,000 members, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the fastest-growing healthcare union in the United States. We represent healthcare workers in all job classifications and all healthcare settings, including hospitals, homecare, nursing homes and clinics. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.

Contact Sadie Crabtree, 323-365-2083


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SOURCE SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West
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