Very well prepared and articulate, SEIU-UHW Attorney Gary Kohlman delivered his opening statement with clear oversight and transparency of SEIU-UHW charges against NUHW leaders - Sal Rosselli, John Borsos, Ralph Cornejo, Barbara Lewis, John Vellardita and other NUHW staff who deliberately committed acts that bring harm to the working members of SEIU-UHW when they were the officials of our union.
Mr. Kohlman spelled out in detail how Rosselli and company knowingly violated both the SEIU International Constitution as well as provisions of the local UHW Constitution and Bylaws while they were still employed as highly paid senior staff of UHW prior to their removal.
He noted how the former leaders conspired to move UHW resources into a Patient Education Fund (PEF) and later only returned a portion of the money after the intention of the fund was questioned by the SEIU International. The group also devised a plan to prevent the trustees of SEIU-UHW from being able to function at normal capacity by barricading UHW offices to prevent the trustees from entering, removing and destroying files and records needed for daily operations, and sabotaging efforts in negotiating contracts as well as the ability to represent members in grievance issues. A memo written by Barbara Lewis outlined the predetermined intention to "put a plan in place to make the union ungovernable..."
Also explained to the jury by attorney Kohlman was how the very same ousted leaders of UHW even sued three individuals in the historic Colcord case when, under their leadership, three individuals decided to leave UHW and attempted to form their own union the very next day. This strikes a bell as to how NUHW officials present a façade of "democracy" while they commit the very undemocratic acts.
Setting up private e-mail systems and hiring a consultant to gain access to UHW computer databases were also among the long laundry list of unethical behaviors that attorney Kohlman explained to the jurors referencing acts committed by Rosselli and company.
As opening statements were made by NUHW Attorney Dan Siegel, Federal Court Judge William Alsup on numerous occasions had to sustain objections and remind him to follow the rules of the court and not get off track with past issues that are not directly related to the charges at hand. Although Judge Alsup repeatedly warned the attorney of his inappropriateness - Attorney Siegel continued to attempt to sway the jurors with topics of no merit pertaining to the case. The attorney became quickly frustrated as his attempts to detour the jurors were halted by Judge Alsup.
The NUHW attorney gave the excuse that the formerly ousted UHW staff travelled a lot, turning their cars into their offices as an excuse for not returning records and files.
Although the present NUHW leaders still continue to confuse UHW members by placing an "N" before UHW by calling themselves "NUHW," attorney Siegel said that the reason for keeping the acronym so close was that because it is essentially the same union. If that were the case, even creating a totally different and non-confusing name would not take away the fact that NUHW is in no way our union, UHW. Also, a union cannot remain the same if it is divided. Division is division, and no matter what the reasons are for - the impact is the same - "Divide and conquer!". These are the very tactics that undermine the transparency of "true" democracy.
Although Sal Rosselli often preached a sermon of keeping similar sectors grouped together, such as "all healthcare workers should belong in one union" - attorney Siegel quickly degraded the appropriateness of the SEIU International's same philosophy when they also thought it would be a good idea to "put all of the Long Term Workers in one union." That would not have separated the group outside of their International, they still would have been SEIU members. To group the classification all together as one would have been to do exactly what Sal's philosophy was.
But instead, Rosselli and company saw this as a threat to diminish their money and power. The attorney even mentioned that the group was denied a vote, although in fact every member was granted a vote. What I don't remember is ever having "a vote to form NUHW." When did we vote on that as a union as a whole? Where were we? The intention to form NUHW was never even mentioned at any of the mass rallies where our purple t-shirts mysteriously appeared with a "red check mark" on them, and then at the very next rally were totally red. It was like being brainwashed gradually rather than having transparency of the intention to slowly move UHW members into a new union.
The timing would have been bad since the Patient Education Fund was detected and questioned as to its validity and use. Just the very thought of it would had opened members eyes of why the misuse of diverted members' dues and resources were being swept under the carpet. Again, as attorney Siegel attempted to lure jurors off topic - Judge Alsup had to give another reminder of courtroom etiquette in delivering opening statements - demanding that the subject at hand be relevant to the charges above.
Finally, three witnesses gave testimony today. The first was Hal Ruddick, who testified that he received threatening flyers under his hotel door because he was employed by SEIU.
The second was Nancy Herring-Barrett, who testified of instructions from her boss (who is now NUHW) to remove records and files, and to occupy the UHW offices to prevent SEIU trustees from entering. The NUHW attorney again tried to detour the subject attacking this sister and bringing up some disciplinary issues Ms. Barrett-Herring had. In other words, NUHW decided to attack a worker.
The third was Natasha Winslow-Beavers who was also threatened by NUHW supporters as they paced outside of her office where she worked at Kaiser. She also received threatening telephone calls where they called her names and used profanity. Ms. Winslow-Beavers had declined the request directly from Sal Rosselli over the telephone in which he asked her to resign her position when she previously worked for SEIU-UHW and to work as volunteer staff for NUHW.
Well, these are the highlights of today's trial. I will keep you posted in the days to come.