Orange County Register: police investigating union worker fight at hospital

NewsMarch 4, 2010

By Deepa Bharath

A long-drawn-out battle between two union groups blows up at Garden Grove Hospital’s cafeteria.

Click here to see the YouTube video

Disclaimer: The YouTube video linked above contains profanity and may be offensive to some.

GARDEN GROVE – A 31-year-old union employee could face misdemeanor assault charges after she pushed another union worker who was meeting with employees at Garden Grove Hospital’s cafeteria, police said.

The incident, caught on video and posted on YouTube, shows a woman talking to a hospital employee in a high-pitched, emotional voice. Then the man holding the camera remarks: “Blame it on the members, blame your incompetence…” At that point, the woman charges toward the camera mouthing obscenities at the man and knocks the camera out of his hands, the video shows.

(Disclaimer: The YouTube video linked above contains profanity and may be offensive to some.)

Police responded to the incident, which occurred at about 10:05 p.m. Feb. 23, said Garden Grove police Lt. Travis Whitman. Police were called to the same location about 8:30 p.m. for a “disturbance.” Whitman said there were no incidents or arrests during the earlier call.

He said the woman in the video has been identified as 31-year-old Liz Castillo, a member of the local SEIU United Healthcare Workers West Chapter. Whitman said the man who was hit was not injured. “We’re waiting to talk to (Castillo),” he said.

Union members on both sides say this was just one episode in a long, statewide battle between the two groups, one of which is a breakaway from the other. Garden Grove hospital employees said representatives from the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the breakaway group, were at the hospital to provide information and talk about an upcoming election.

Whitman said once the investigation is completed, his department will forward the case to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which would then determine if any charges are warranted.

Steve Trossman, a spokesman for SEIU United Healthcare Workers, said Castillo was baited into such behavior.

“However, we do not condone such behavior on the part of an employee,” he said.

Trossman said SEIU will use this incident as an example to teach staff members that they “shouldn’t take the bait.”

The incident is “only a snapshot” of a long fight, which is now statewide, he said. SEIU is suing those former members in federal court on various allegations including embezzling millions of dollars from the union, he said.

The other union’s members bring in video cameras to meetings “hoping to provoke incidents such as this,” he said.

Andrena Kirby, an ultrasound technician at Garden Grove Hospital, said she believes the new union is “more honest” than SEIU. Hospital employees are gearing up to vote out SEIU in favor of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, she said.

Kirby, who was at the Feb. 23 meeting, identified the man who was assaulted as Antonio Orea, an NUHW employee who was there to talk and listen to their concerns.

“Many of us have not been happy with the SEIU and are ready to vote them out during our next election,” Kirby said.

She said she was shocked to see Castillo react the way she did.

“That camera flew off Antonio’s hands and landed 10 feet away,” Kirby said. “It was something

Source: Orange County Register