“It’s about rules being broken.” As simple as that statement may be, it encapsulates what this case is about. With that, Mr. Gary Kholman – lead attorney for UHW in our lawsuit against Sal Rosselli and the other officials who were kicked out of our union – painted for the jury a pattern of decisions the defendants made and the events that followed since the report by Leonard Page in August 2008 recommending that 65,000 long term care workers be removed out of Sal Rosselli’s jurisdiction and into a Local of their own within SEIU.
Knowing that not abiding by the decision of the International would jeopardize their power, the defendants started to hold secret meetings to plot, Kohlman said in his opening argument. Kohlman outlined different steps in the misuse of the union’s funds, including the presentation of a knowingly false defense to the trusteeship when it came to their reasons for creating the PEF (“Patient Education Fund”). The defendants also scrambled the membership database, began looking for “offsite” office space, and improperly tapped into the union’s computer system so they could access it from their homes and bypass the union’s IT department. In September 2008, they started to formulate a cover up, and a plan to make the Local “ungovernable.” At the same time, field reps were instructed – rather than represent members – to develop networks of stewards and other loyal followers that would circulate decertification/disaffiliation petitions.
Days prior to trusteeship in late January 2009 they hired a security firm to specifically keep the International staff out, encouraged stewards to continue circulating decertification petitions and recruited members to chain themselves to the offices and prevent an orderly transfer of authority. On January 28, 2009 barely one day after the defendants were relieved of the top positions they once held, they announced the formation of NUHW.
In his opening argument for the defense, Mr. Siegel tried to argue the merits of the trusteeship, something that earned him Judge Alsup’s admonishment…again. He then said Rosselli was motivated by his concern of protecting patient care and how UHW grew to 150,000 during his tenure. He went on to say that Rosselli/Borsos returned all but $150,000 of the $3M to the general fund, while SEIU only wants dues money…In other words, his clients’ actions were justified cause the “boogeyman” was out to get them. When he spoke of the new union NUHW, he admitted, that the name was not by accident, because they want members to think the new union is like the old union…even though it’s nothing close.
In his testimony as the first witness, Hal Ruddick explained to the jury how after the 2005 Colcord case where three former union staff tried to form another union while they were still employed by UHW, all employees and officers had to sign confidentiality agreements. He went on to tell how he and other incoming staff were unable to access the offices or find important files needed to represent members. When he first came out immediately after the trusteeship, Mr. Ruddick was staying in a hotel nearby and came back from work one evening only to find a threatening flier under his room door.
Quite disturbing was testimony of Latasha Winslow-Beavers, who was an organizer in the Kaiser Division. She told the jury how just prior to trusteeship she found herself directed by her superiors to dedicate her efforts to creating a “Rapid Response Team” that could be called at a moment’s notice to keep the International out! Only 30% of her time was to be for actual member representation. After trusteeship, she returned to work at Kaiser as a member where she was harassed by her former UHW director, defendant Jason Johnson.