Statement by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) on U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Decision in SEIU vs. NUHW

Press ReleasesMarch 26, 2013

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a major setback to union democracy and helped advance SEIU’s autocratic, top-down style of corporate unionism. The court’s decision marks another step toward the inexorable decline of the labor movement and represents a huge step backwards for American workers.

Rather than upholding the rights of union members to oppose corruption and other undemocratic practices in their union, this decision reaffirms the authority of SEIU’s leaders to run roughshod over rank-and-file democratic decision-making, particularly when those members stand in opposition to top union officials.
In fact, the lawsuit itself is an expression of SEIU’s determination to stifle dissent within its ranks. It began in 2008 when officers of UHW’s 100-member Executive Board unanimously opposed the usurpation of power by the SEIU international union president. First the SEIU president assumed the right to take the authority away from democratically elected committees for the purposes of bargaining with Kaiser Permanente and other employers. When UHW members and leaders resisted, the SEIU president then ordered the undemocratic transfer of 65,000 nursing home and homecare workers into another SEIU local headed by Tyrone Freeman, a close ally of SEIU’s top officials who was widely known to be corrupt and ineffective.

Earlier this year, Freeman was convicted on 14 criminal counts, including the embezzlement of tens of thousands of dollars from low-wage union members. Freeman now faces a prison sentence of up to more than 200 years. Despite the drummed-up pretext to SEIU’s trusteeship of UHW, to this day, SEIU never transferred the 65,000 workers.
Originally seeking more than $25 million in damages, SEIU “won” a $1.5 million verdict that it spent more than $10 million of its own members’ money to achieve.

The clear intent of the lawsuit was to try to stop workers from creating a democratic, member-led union, and in that, it failed miserably. The National Union of Healthcare Workers is stronger than at any time in its history.

Out of the ashes of UHW and the corruption of SEIU, California healthcare workers have formed a new and more democratic union, NUHW, a union that’s not beholden to SEIU’s cronyism and corruption and that stands for member empowerment and democracy.

In the meantime, the democratically elected NUHW Executive Board is considering an appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision to the United States Supreme Court.