The fight for Union Democracy continues
Last week in San Francisco, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from attorneys for both SEIU and NUHW.
In a courtroom packed with NUHW members and NUHW supporters still stuck in SEIU, the judges called into question the jury instructions in the lower court proceedings and cited workers’ free speech rights to disagree with SEIU International’s decisions.
NUHW attorney Dan Siegel presented arguments appealing damages awarded in the 2010 civil suit brought by SEIU against 16 former elected officers and leaders of United Healthcare Workers-West who went on to found NUHW. Siegel challenged the basis for these damages – that the UHW leaders had defied “fiduciary obligations” to SEIU leadership that were greater than their obligations to rank and file members and their democratically-elected Executive Board – and argued that the judge in the case, William Alsup, had seriously erred in his instructions to the jury.
Speaking after the hearing, Siegel said he expected results within a few weeks and that the outcome was important for two reasons, first “to remove these entirely unfair judgments, hanging over the heads of the sixteen defendants.”
Second, on the larger issues, Siegel expressed concern that the case raised issues that could prove “very dangerous for union activists. It took a law – Landrum Griffin Act 1959 – designed to protect rank and file workers, and turned it on its head, using it as a vehicle for payback against dissenting local union officers and members.”
Cal Winslow, Author
Labor’s Civil War in California: the NUHW Healthcare Workers’ Rebellion