Charges filed with National Labor Relations Board against SEIU and Bank of America over “corrupt relationship”

NewsJune 17, 2009

Financial ties between bank and union likely violation of federal law

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Lawyers representing the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) filed charges today with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over financial ties between Bank of America and the Washington, D.C.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that appear to be gross violations of federal labor laws. [PDF]

The charges allege that Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, whose 234,000 employees SEIU has taken steps to organize, offered SEIU at least $88 million in prohibited financial support in the form of loans. Federal law bars loans, gifts and other financial ties between employers and unions attempting to organize their employees. Unions that take money from the companies whose workers they seek to represent are considered “employer-dominated unions.”

“The laws against the type of financial arrangement SEIU appears to have engaged in are very clear,” said Sal Rosselli, NUHW Interim President. “Unions are supposed to be focused on the needs of workers, and the law is intended to keep employers from using money to gain undue influence with union officials. At the same time, the law prevents unions from shaking down employers with organizing campaigns designed solely to elicit funds to fill the coffers of the local or international union.”

Over the past two months, SEIU has staged protests outside Bank of America offices, called for the resignation of bank CEO Ken Lewis, and has demanded improvements in wages, bargaining rights, and health care benefits for Bank of America workers through public campaigns and in testimony before Congress. SEIU’s efforts against Bank of America have been documented in more than 1,500 news stories.

SEIU’s precarious financial situation also has been well documented by the Wall Street Journal (“Unions in Debt,” June 9, 2009) and in the union’s own financial statements filed with the U.S. Dept. of Labor. These statements show that SEIU has $34 million in net assets, but more than $150 million in obligations to Bank of America, Amalgamated Bank of New York and others. The union is financially strapped as a result of heavy spending in the 2008 election campaign, seven-figure legal bills linked to SEIU’s involvement in the Blagojevich scandal and a corruption scandal in California, declining dues revenue, a loss of investment income, a costly civil war within the union, and ongoing battles with NUHW and hotel and textile workers’ union UNITE HERE.

NUHW estimates that SEIU has spent up to $10 million in the past three months in a desperate attempt to stop an organizing drive by 10,000 Fresno County, California homecare providers who are trying to switch from SEIU to NUHW. Millions more are being spent to stop other workers in California from leaving the service workers union, and at least $1 million per month is being spent in SEIU’s attempted raids against the members of UNITE HERE.

“Healthcare workers have been contributing money out of our own pockets to build our union, protect wages, and fight back devastating cuts to healthcare services,” said Dannielle Estrada, an inpatient coder at Kaiser Baldwin Park in Los Angeles County. “It makes me sick to think of the millions SEIU has been using to attack workers, interfere with other unions, and cover up scandals instead of supporting healthcare workers and winning healthcare reform. To know that money came from Bank of America, one of the same corporations that wrecked our country’s economy, adds insult to injury.”

Labor councils across the Western U.S. have issued resolutions condemning SEIU for their continued attacks on other unions, including SEIU’s “reliance on corporate-type anti-union tactics.”

If the NLRB follows recent precedent in its investigation of SEIU, the Board will block all private sector union representation elections requested by SEIU pending the results of the investigation.

“We believe that SEIU should repay their debt to Bank of America and find financing from sources that do not put them on the wrong side of the law,” said Rosselli.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. NUHW is building a national movement of caregivers to hold healthcare corporations accountable to the public interest and win affordable, quality healthcare for all.