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SEIU fires back at CNA with lawsuit of its own

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 1:56 pm in Labor politics.

The Service Employees International Union filed suit today against arch rival California Nurses Association in the two group’s ongoing and nasty dispute over labor practices.

The two unions have been at odds over recruiting and organizing tactics for nurses and the fracas devolved into a shoving match at a labor conference in Michigan and unwelcome visits by SEIU representatives to the homes of California CNA leaders.

Unless national union leaders step in and broker some of deal between these warring factions, this fight will play out in California courtroom.

Click here for CNA’s specific web site on the dispute.

Read on for SEIU’s latest press release and a link to its dedicated web site on the matter:

SEIU Seeks Damages for CNA’s Effort to Silence Workers, Suppress Criticism of Anti-Union Tactics

Service Employees International Union files anti-SLAPP motion against the California Nurses Association, submits application to vacate TRO publicity stunt

OAKLAND –The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today filed an anti-Strategic Lawsuit to Prevent Public Participation motion against the California Nurses Association (CNA) to prevent the union from further efforts to silence critics of its divisive tactics. The motion cites a temporary restraining order against SEIU President Andy Stern and SEIU that the CNA obtained as a publicity stunt last week as the latest effort by the CNA to suppress nurses and hospital workers who have criticized its anti-union tactics in Ohio and other states.

SEIU also filed an application today to vacate the temporary restraining order, which was obtained by the CNA on April 15 from a local court commissioner—without any notice to SEIU—and based on misrepresentations by the CNA.

“CNA leaders have waged a dishonest and desperate campaign to divert attention from the truth that they’ve robbed more than 8,000 Ohio workers of the right to form a union,” said Andy Stern, SEIU International President. “Their latest trick was the cynical use of important laws intended to protect people from real abuse and harassment—most often women—and it simply went too far.”

The motion against the CNA was filed today under California’s Code of Civil Procedure §425.16, a statute intended to prevent organizations from using a Strategic Lawsuit to Prevent Public Participation or “SLAPP” suit to suppress free speech from critics or opponents. SEIU expects to recover its attorney’s fees and costs for having to vacate the improper restraining order.

California’s anti-SLAPP legislation is designed to ensure organizations like the CNA cannot stand in the way of the First Amendment rights of SEIU workers—or anyone else—simply because they don’t like being criticized,” said Stephen Berzon, a partner at Altshuler Berzon LLP, the San Francisco-based law firm handling the case.

At a hearing this afternoon at the Alameda County Superior Court, the court conveyed it was “strongly of the belief” that the temporary restraining order obtained by the CNA was unlawful under the labor code. The court granted the CNA the opportunity to respond to the SEIU motion to vacate the order within 24 hours—by 3PM pacific on Tuesday, April 22—and is expected to make a ruling immediately thereafter.

TRO IS LATEST TACTIC IN CNA MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN

The CNA filing of the temporary restraining order last Wednesday is the latest tactic in a campaign of untruths and misinformation led by the California-based union. After waging a vicious “vote no” operation at Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) hospitals in Ohio that sabotaged a three-year effort by nurses and hospital workers to win a fair process to freely choose whether to form a union with SEIU, the CNA has consistently and inaccurately characterized efforts by CHP workers and supporters to engage with CNA leadership over the union’s anti-union tactics as “harassment.” Video footage shows that what the CNA called “5 male staffers harassing CNA Board members” was actually a registered nurse and respiratory therapist going door-to-door to try to speak to CNA leadership: (available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGw2QJTgw4I).

“I just wanted to talk with CNA leaders and ask them to explain why they stood in the way of union elections for me and other hospital workers in Ohio,” said Sue Allen, a registered nurse with CHP in Springfield, OH who spent a week door-knocking alongside one of her coworkers to try to reach CNA board-members. “For the CNA to call that ‘stalking’ is an exaggeration to say the least.”

Last week, the CNA posted widely an exaggerated and distorted depiction of a protest at an April 12 Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn, MI featuring photos and video of SEIU members and staff injured by conference security as “evidence of violence by protesters.” Despite outcry from Rachael Holland, the SEIU organizer in the images, the CNA has failed to admit its misrepresentation of actual events. The CNA has even created a video featuring Rachael’s photo as “evidence” (available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiMH20aJiXg).

“Talk about adding insult to injury,” said Rachael Holland, SEIU 1199WKO organizer from Ohio, in her blog response days after the incident (available online at http://www.openleft.com/showComment.do?commentId=58295). “A photograph of me being assaulted by them, and yelling out in pain has been posted on the web by CNA bloggers as fake evidence of OUR treatment of women!”

AVOIDING WORKERS, DEBATE OVER ANTI-UNION EFFORTS IN OHIO

Rather than face SEIU members and other protestors led by CHP hospital workers from Ohio, CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro cancelled an appearance at the April 12 Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn at the last minute. Days later, amid growing criticism of the CNA’s disruption of union elections among CHP hospital employees, DeMoro also cancelled her appearance as featured speaker at an April 25 gathering of Chicago’s labor and progressive allies hosted by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

“It’s bad enough the CNA continues to distort reality to divert focus from the real issues and avoid debating their anti-union tactics,” said Tom Debruin, President of SEIU Healthcare PA. “Now the CNA is trying to use the legal system to rob CHP nurses and health care workers of their right to free speech right and hiding the truth from hospital workers nationwide.”

For more information visit www.ShameOnCNA.org.

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  • AntiochAmerican

    Have they no shame? If I were SEIU I would lie about it as well.

  • AntiochAmerican

    Have they no shame? If I were SEIU I would lie about it as well.

  • J

    Poor, little, 1.6-million-member SEIU.

    The only way they can communicate is by stalking and harassing nurses, so this restraining order effectively silences them! Is that the logic behind the anti-SLAPP motion?

  • J

    Poor, little, 1.6-million-member SEIU.

    The only way they can communicate is by stalking and harassing nurses, so this restraining order effectively silences them! Is that the logic behind the anti-SLAPP motion?