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From the March-April
2005 issue of Union Democracy Review #155
If you can't woo 'em, sue 'em!
An ingenious twist in punishing dissent in the SEIU
The Service Employees International Union, via the trustee
it has imposed on its Local 134, has come up with an ingenious device
to discourage disenchanted members from seeking a more congenial affiliation.
The solution is not by convincing them to stay but by taking retaliatory
action in federal court against their leaders. This is one of those suits
which, win or lose, achieves its objective by the very act of filing.
Based upon an examination of legal papers submitted by both sides, it
seems that in mid-2003, the SEIU, presumably in line with its merger obsession,
decided to transfer a big part of the 750 membership of Local 134 in Rhode
Island to the bigger Local 615 in Boston. But in a wave of resentment
against the move, 500 Local 134 members voted to quit the SEIU and form
their own independent union, the United Service and Allied Workers of
Rhode Island. Nothing unusual here; disaffiliation happens from time to
Two paid Local 134 staff representatives --- Karen Mac Aninch, business
agent; and Charles F. Wood, secretary-treasurer--- supported the disaffiliation
move after they say, the overwhelming majority of local members rejected
the effort to merge them into the Boston local. On September 28, 2004,
having lost out to the United Service and Allied Workers in NLRB elections,
the SEIU made its move by filing suit in federal court against the two
errant former staffers: Aninch and Wood. The suit aims to make them pay
for their apostasy.
In its complaint, the SEIU charges that the two caused Local 134 a severe
drop in income from the loss of membership while collecting a salary from
the local; it accuses them of "misappropriating Local 134 trade secrets
involving the location and composition of its membership." The suit
seeks a judgment against the two, reimbursement for all the losses, and
a return of the salary payments. Since the claimed total dues income was
$240,000 and the salaries, $81,496 before the losses, the potential demand
upon the two defendants could be quite a bundle. Won or lost, the suit
stands as a warning to others.
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