Fresno Business Journal: SEIU workers accused of vandalism

NewsJune 3, 2009

Written by Business Journal Staff

In two separate incidents this week, workers for the Service Employees International Union have been accused of acts of vandalism toward opposing union supporters.

Home care workers in Clovis and Kerman who support the National Union of Healthcare Workers say people have come to their door, torn down signs in support of NUHW and replaced them with flyers in support of SEIU.

Today marked the day when 10,000 workers in the Fresno area would begin receiving ballots in the mail. The election is to determine if workers want to remain members of SEIU or join NUHW.

“I was extremely upset,” said Silbenia Conley of Kerman. She said she witnessed a heavyset African-American male come to her door, allegedly tear down a red NUHW support sign, replace it with a SEIU magnetized sign, then speed off in a newer silver-gray Chevy Malibu. “I was cussing. That (sign) was given to me,” Conley said.

Conley and her husband are both in-home care workers, and she said she doesn’t know how SEIU received their home address.

Conley made a police report following the incident, and said Kerman police told her that it was considered theft since the man took her sign.

In a separate incident, Lesalie Kyle of Clovis said she witnessed a man wearing a purple SEIU t-shirt allegedly kick in the screen on her front door, then place several SEIU flyers in front of her NUHW support poster.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Kyle said.

Pete Janhunen, a spokesperson for SEIU, said that workers that help with the campaign are told clearly to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

“We are very confident that our people are conducting themselves in the most professional manner possible,” Janhunen said. He went on to say that any allegations of inappropriate or criminal behavior would be looked into by SEIU and the organization would take the proper actions against the offender.

However, Janhunen also said that any chance NUHW has had to launch a claim against SEIU, it has done so.

“To claim that we have people that would have come here to intimidate is nothing short of outrageous,” Janhunen said.

According to union organizers, the ballots need to be filled out and returned via mail to the State Mediation and Conciliation Service by June 15. The results will be tabulated and issued by June 19.

In May, a similar vote held by workers at Doctor’s Medical Center in San Pablo was overwhelmingly won by NUHW, with the majority of workers there wanting to join the union.

Both unions are fighting for the rights of health care workers. In recent action, SEIU filed a class-action lawsuit against the state and Fresno County seeking to stop a cut in workers’ hours and pay to take effect on July 1.

Source: Fresno Business Journal