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Statement by UHW Trustee Eliseo Medina on the Trusteeship of Local UHW-W

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On January 27 the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) imposed a trusteeship on United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW or UHW-W) for three separate reasons:

1. Serious financial wrongdoing and attempts to undermine democracy, as found by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall in his trusteeship report;

2. Refusal to cooperate with the Union's democratic decision on the jurisdiction of long-term care workers in California; that is, its decision to unify these workers from 3 separate locals into one strong new local union; and

3. Putting collective bargaining relationships at serious risk by fostering or failing to counteract efforts to decertify bargaining units and deauthorize dues deductions, among other matters.

The following are remarks as prepared for UHW Trustee Eliseo Medina, who spoke on a telephone press briefing today:

"As you know, former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall found that Sal Rosselli and the officers of UHW engaged in financial malpractice, undermined democratic practices, and misappropriated a SEIU convention delegate database. These findings by themselves merited a local being placed in a trusteeship.

"However, despite the findings, Secretary Marshall recommended -- and the SEIU International Executive Board concurred -- that UHW-W officers should be given an opportunity to change course and agree to comply and fully cooperate with the implementation of the International Executive Board's long term care jurisdiction decision and agree not to use members' dues money to interfere with, or undermine, the implementation of that decision. This decision afforded UHW leaders an opportunity to resolve this dispute.

"Unfortunately, UHW leaders chose to do otherwise.

"If you push aside the smoke screen that UHW officers created, the core issue and root cause of their repeated misconduct -- as found by Secretary Marshall -- has always been their disagreement over the creation of a single long term health care local in California.

"They took their argument to the Convention -- and lost.

"They took their argument to the International Executive Board of SEIU -- and lost.

"They took their argument to the hearing officer -- and lost.

"UHW leaders, rather than acknowledging and supporting the decision of the majority, decided to wage war in order to overturn these decisions.

"That is flat-out wrong.

"No single local union can stand above all others. In a democracy, you cannot decide that you will only comply with those decisions you agree with. For a democracy to function, after a fair and thorough debate -- as was the case with the long term jurisdiction -- you must abide by all the decisions that are made, whether you prevail or not.

"Dozens of locals have undergone similar transformations over the last two years. In fact, local leaders in both Washington state and Oregon presided over the transfer of long term healthcare workers into one union and healthcare workers into another. Those local leaders argued their cases forcefully. Some won their arguments; others did not. But after the decision was made no local except UHW-W refused to comply. And, as Secretary Marshall noted in his decision, ' democratic labor organization can permit local unions to nullify International decisions reached through their democratic processes specified in their constitutions and bylaws.'

"UHW's leaders knew by the International Executive Board's discussion on January 22 that their failure to comply with the Board's order on jurisdiction -- which was in any event their constitutional duty -- would trigger a trusteeship based on misconduct found by Secretary Marshall. They took that step with full knowledge of the consequences.

"This is especially unfortunate coming, as it does, during a time of great challenges, but also great opportunities for working families in California and nationally.

"In just a few days the State of California could run out of money, forcing thousands of workers to accept IOU's, potentially cutting off services to hundreds of thousands of Californians, and deepening our economic crisis. It is imperative that labor join with community organizations business, churches and civic organizations to work together for a fair and balanced budget. At the same time, a new administration has taken over in Washington D.C. with a plan and a vision for rebuilding the middle class strengthening workers voices, fixing our healthcare system and our SEIU and UHW members, are critical to those fights.

"For too long the officers of UHW ignored the serious work of the members in order to wage a political battle. That ended yesterday. Today going forward, UHW-W will now be focused on the business of our members --protecting and strengthening their rights and improving their lives.

"While we now must turn our attention to fixing the problems of democratic accountability within UHW-W, we will also make sure that our focus is on the major issues of economic justice for our members and for all workers."

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today's global economy.

SOURCE Service Employees International Union
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