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"Go Back to the Fields!"

The Day SEIU Field Reps Taunted
Dolores Huerta

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

Dolores Huerta, vice president of the United Farm Workers speaking to a rally in San Diego against unjust immigration policies. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.

Dolores Huerta, vice president of the United Farm Workers speaking to a rally in San Diego against unjust immigration policies. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.

There is no greater blow to the moral authority of the labor movement than a fraudulent union election. The right to organize and bargain collectively and the right of employees to choose the union that represents them are intertwined.

This July the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke found the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) guilty of coercion and unlawful threats in the historic California statewide Kaiser election that took place in October 2010.

The match between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers
(NUHW) included 43,000 employees, the largest private-sector vote in 70 years. SEIU’s campaign of disinformation, intimidation and fear was so pervasive that Judge Parke set aside the results.

I was the only journalist
(columnist) in attendance at the hearings. While the NLRB does not lightly set aside elections, I was hardly surprised by the ruling. Early in the hearing I was moved, or rather, upset, by sworn, unrefuted testimony about SEIU field reps (along with union members) who surrounded Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, harassed and taunted her.

I took detailed notes at the trial, but here is the transcript of the story:

ATTORNEY JONATHAN SIEGEL (addressing Ralph Cornejo, Vice-President of NUHW): Did you have any incidents at the Woodland Hills Medical Center? Were you subject to intimidation in your estimation?

RALPH CORNEJO: Yes, I was driving Dolores Huerta to the medical center where we were going to meet with members just to support NUHW. When we got there, there were about 100 SEIU supporters in front of the hospital waiting for us. As we approached the hospital, they surrounded us and were pushing us and shoving us. Understand Dolores Huerta is a 80-year-old woman, very frail, and we just were surrounded by this throng of people. They were yelling -- one of them was yelling at her saying she should go back to the fields.

SIEGEL: Did people actually physically touch you or Ms. Huerta?

CORNEJO: Oh, absolutely.

SIEGEL: And when was this event?

CORNEJO: June 25th.

SIEGEL: How long did this incident go on for?

CORNEJO: A couple of hours.

After hearing five weeks of evidence and testimony, Judge Parke ruled that SEIU "stoked unwarranted and coercive fears" and "interfered with employees’ free and uncoerced choice to such an extent that it materially affected the results."

Notwithstanding the NLRB verdict, SEIU refuses to accept public accountability for its misconduct in the Kaiser election. And without SEIU assurances that the threats that marred the last election will not be repeated, the re-run election cannot be scheduled.

About the author: Paul Rockwell is a retired librarian. He served as an SEIU shop steward for 10 years in Local 616.

Published in In Motion Magazine - October 23, 2011

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