SEIU-UHW vs. NUHW Trial Day 7: "In the Land of Secrecy: Conspiracy First...Members Second..."

05/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

SEIU-UHW (Service Employees International Union) vs. NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers) Trial: DAY 7- March 30, 2010

The Labor Movement in America is very much at stake when unacceptable behaviors of labor leaders set the tone for sabotage, violence, confusion and division. No matter what our personal philosophies and ideologies are - we must all carefully demonstrate our philosophies and ideologies by that of our actions. In other words, "we have to practice what we preach".

As the ongoing trial of SEIU-UHW vs. NUHW continues, Federal Judge William Alsup has on each day had to remind parties to stick to the charges at hand and the evidence thereof. Although it is very difficult to not detour off into personal feelings regarding the trusteeship of January 27, 2009 which impacted former leaders of SEIU-UHW (now NUHW officials), we cannot afford to overlook the very reasons we are present in a Federal Courtroom today- claims against NUHW leaders which include: conspiracy to make SEIU-UHW ungovernable, removal and destruction of files and property, violations of the SEIU International Constitution and Bylaws, as well as a breach of fiduciary responsibility. The facts and evidence from witnesses will not go away despite our personal opinions. To sweep the facts under the carpet does not do justice to set an example for the future generation of America. That does not mean that one is not entitled to their personal point of view. It just means that we should not distort or sway away from the evidence of this trial - or use our personal point of view as a tactic to detour away from the subject at hand that the trial is based on. Many want to talk about everything else except the facts of the trial - but let us all attempt to respect the rules and processes of the court. Efforts to ignore rules of a Federal Court only demonstrate our ability to ignore legalities both inside and outside the courtroom. Only then will our actions speak louder than words. Let those actions be good ones - not bad ones.

Is that what possibly led to this trial to begin with? It is never too late to learn from our mistakes - it is only after pride that we take a fall. That goes for each and every one of us.

Well, let's see what transpired in the courtroom of Federal Judge Alsup today.

SEIU-UHW witness Edgard Cajina continued to testify this morning. He spoke of how UHW union dues were not received due to 30 canceled contract extensions in nursing homes left by the previous ousted leadership (presently NUHW leaders), seven of which stopped paying dues to the union. He testified about how costly it would be to retrieve those dues from low-paid members. He also testified that 200 blackberries, as well as office space, was purchased with funds from the PEF (Patient Education Fund) so that Executive Board members and other staff could communicate and meet in the event of a trusteeship. Mr. Cajina questioned the directive of wiring one million dollars into the PEF, he stated that the reason explained to him for the use of the fund was different than a previous response to the same question during a senior staff meeting.

Abbie Reeve, SEIU-UHW Field Rep./Hospital Division, prior E-Board member and steward, also gave testimony on behalf of SEIU-UHW today. Not an unfamiliar testimony by now - she testified how 70% of her time was spent organizing against the trusteeship to sabotage SEIU efforts, which included tasks like phone banking, assessing members, and distributing flyers with messages against the SEIU International. She was instructed to recruit activists at her facility to assist with turning out members for a January 17, 2009 meeting. She testified that she was confused about the purpose of the meeting nor why it was urgent. She was also asked to transfer contact information from her blackberry, write it down on paper and submit the information to her director. This was unusual since the same information should have already been in the UHW database. She was instructed to tell members to throw away any mail that they received from the SEIU International as well. This only left 30% of time to represent union members. These were directives given to her by NUHW defendants Gail Buhler and Barbara Lewis.

Some of this may sound familiar to you based on your experience at that time...but what was the impact of these actions on the very same members that are now being sought to trust and join NUHW? Did NUHW legally represent any one of us during this time? That is a very long time for anyone to be at risk during these tough economic times.

SEIU-UHW witness Michael Lasinski (Director of Capstone Company/Evaluation Systems) testified on his evaluation of books, reports and records and developing tools for the jury to use to determine appropriate dollar amounts requested in damages. The methodologies are utilized as a tool only as the jury has the responsibility in determining the outcome of any assumptions of either party.

Our next witness for SEIU was Annie (Mary Ann) Durazo, SEIU-UHW lead for the Home Care Division. She told of "secret meetings" that only certain people were invited to which were facilitated by defendant Gabe Kristal. At these meetings he discussed how "we are going to have a great plan to win" and that there would be follow up meetings that will no longer be at the Oakland union office - but will be on the outside in the future. She reported to defendant Gabe Krystal, who directed her to circulate disaffiliation forms to members as well. He later told her that defendant Marti Garza was going to drop off more forms for her on the way to Fresno, and said she did not want anything to do with circulating disaffiliation or decertification forms and to not bring any to her. She also testified how she too spent 90 % of her time fighting the International, andonly 10% of time was spent representing members.

This is starting to feel like Ground Hog Day...

Lynn Templeton was a witness for SEIU-UHW, explaining her role in assisting with the Sprint contract and Message Center negotiation (an external communication hosting service) as well as verifying evidence of a Comscape Company receipt for cell phones ordered through the PEF (Patient Education Fund) per defendant Phyllis Willett. She also told how she was instructed to "white out" the signature of defendant Joan Emslie on the Sprint contract which was signed by Ms. Emslie on 2/5/08 from the PEF and to sign defendant Willette's signature in place of it and indicate it was from "UHW". Also she was ordered to send memos to a variety of vendors including (AT&T, San Jose Water, Waste Mgt., S.F. Public Utilities, City Park/S.F.) and more informing them that only she and Willett could end their services. As NUHW Attorney Dan Siegel cross-examined Ms. Templeton, he asked her is she worked for the Unity Healthcare Workers Corporation. This attempt failed as SEIU-UHW Attorney Gary Kohlman re-examined her as she reiterated that she worked for UHW.

Next was Alex Espinoza, HCA Coordinator for SEIU-UHW, who testified of directives given by defendant Gail Buhler to recruit the "top five" activists in order to combat the International and the trusteeship. He was told to give the reps under him their "marching orders!" Later he was told by defendant Barbara Lewis that "we came across some charts and we saw an assessment of you as number "1". When he asked what is a "1" she said "pro SEIU" and inquired about what he was doing about his work. He replied "staying with the members!... He also explained that reps were working 50% of the time doing tasks to fight the trusteeship and the other 50% representing members.

A video was shown with SEIU-UHW witness, Freja Nelson, who testified of how she removed bargaining CHW and Daughters of Charity contracts, tentative agreements, and other property from the UHW office prior to trusteeship as she was the sole person with these documents. The documents eventually ended up in her home garage.

Expert witness for SEIU-UHW, Phillip Rodokanakis (U.S. Data Forensic Co.) gave detailed information on the computer forensic research that he did in which he found deleted files of defendant Fred Seavey in the recycle bin and also showed how the original name of a file called "staff list" from UHW was later changed to "NUHW staff list." On a log, which was developed by the NUHW attorneys and submitted to SEIU-UHW attorneys, it showed the Mr. Seavey had not submitted his hard drive for examination. Mr. Rodokanakis also stated that the "Outlook Program" of defendant John Borsos was configured to keep e-mails off the UHW system and on a server at a company called Intermedia. There were a total of 5,700 "double deleted" messages found in all, 2,700 of which are no longer recoverable from the Intermedia account.

Much more to come...Erica Boddie.


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