CNA gets TRO against SEIU

Remember when the Oakland-based California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee and the Service Employees International Union marched side-by-side against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special-election agenda in 2005, and against his re-election in 2006?

If they do any marching now, it’ll have to be at least about 100 feet yards apart.

The CNA/NNOC says it obtained a temporary restraining order today from Alameda County Superior Court Commissioner Jon Rantzman in Oakland prohibiting the SEIU and its president, Andy Stern, “from stalking, threatening or following CNA/NNOC leaders staff at work, in hospitals, clinics, and offices, at their homes. They are also barred from following their cars, or harassing them with mail or phone calls.” Stern and SEIU reportedly are supposed to appear in Rantzman’s court May 1 as he considers a three-year injunction.

“While this court order provides a step forward for the safety and security of our leaders and staff, it’s a disgrace that a labor organization would engage in this level of deplorable behavior against an organization that is predominantly women and nurses,” CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said in her news release.

The unions are at war over accusations that the CNA/NNOC has been trying to poach SEIU’s current or potential nurse members. The CNA/NNOC says SEIU teams recently have targeted CNA/NNOC leaders in nursing stations, harassed them at home, and followed cars.

The unions came to blows Saturday night in Michigan, where SEIU members tried to force their way into a Labor Notes conference to complain about CNA/NNOC activities. Each side blamed the other, but the conference’s organizers and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO (from which the SEIU withdrew in 2005), lay blame at the SEIU’s feet. “No union should understand the corrosive effect of violence better than SEIU, which was founded by courageous janitors in the face of employer violence in the 1920s and 1930s,” Sweeney said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I call on the leaders of SEIU to condemn what happened in Detroit.”

Southern California CNA/NNOC Board member Carolle Koelle, in her union’s release, described her response to SEIU going to her house and following family members in their car: “This is unprofessional, thug-like behavior that has no place in a professional women’s union. I feel violated that they actually came to my home, my sanctuary which (is) way out in the desert and involved my family. They degraded me in front of my son as they were pointing a video camera at us. They are trying to intimidate me, but I am not afraid.”

The SEIU’s response, from its “Shame on CNA” Web site:

Not only has the CNA failed to admit photos it claimed as evidence of “violence by protesters” at the Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn, MI were actually images of SEIU staff and members injured by conference security — the union’s claims of “stalking of, use of violence against, and harassment of officers, directors, and staff of the California Nurses Association” also stray far from reality.

As SEIU has yet to receive a court order of any kind, we cannot comment on the details of the temporary restraining order filed by the CNA today.

What SEIU can confirm is we have not been notified of a hearing and under no circumstances have SEIU members or staff harassed CNA members or leadership. Nurses and hospital workers from Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) have bravely led a national effort to engage CNA leadership in a dialogue about their vicious “vote no” campaign in Ohio and are committed to continue these efforts.

It’s shameful that the CNA is continuing to spread misinformation and distorting reality to divert focus from the real issues–the anti-union tactics that sabotaged the opportunity for more than 8,000 nurses and other hospital workers in Ohio to freely choose whether to form a union with SEIU and are continuing to stand in the way of workers around the country uniting to improve patient care, workplace standards, and the lives of hardworking families.

UPDATE @ 4:13 P.M. THURSDAY: The SEIU has issued a release saying it’ll file a motion to dismiss the TRO.

“This is an entirely frivolous injunction being used for political purposes,” San Francisco attorney Stephen Berzon said in the release. “The CNA designed their suit to interfere with SEIU’s legitimate, constitutionally-protected free speech activity. The CNA ran into court and procured the order without giving SEIU notice or an opportunity to be heard. Once SEIU gets its day in court, this illegal injunction will be overturned very quickly.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.