Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have launched a protest against their own union in California over waste and corruption. They rallied outside SEIU headquarters last week and plan to be in Sacramento on Wednesday.
The protestors are calling for transparency, accountability, and audits of the 2 million member labor union. The group’s website is urging members to hold their representatives accountable: “It is our members that see the waste every day; it is our members that can call it out to the union representatives in their area.”
At the rally last week, SEIU officials asked the gathering protesters, “How much are they paying you?” The protestors replied that they were participating on their own time.
SEIU reacted to the protest outside its offices by closing the doors and videotaping the dissenting members, according to the protesters. The group’s website describes the purpose of videotaping dissenting members as an effort to identify members to add to a “blacklist.”
Members critical of the SEIU may have good reason to suspect a blacklist, as they have allegedly faced exclusion from SEIU activities before. In a lawsuit filed against the SEIU, Mariam Noujaim, a member and DMV worker, claims that after she reported suspicious votes being counted at an SEIU election she had observed, she was subsequently pushed out of the room and the door behind her locked. This was a violation of Noujaim’s right to participate in union activities under the Dills Act in California, the lawsuit claims.
Noujaim writes: “In 2010 we were furloughed while our SEIU Union Members, who we pay their salaries, were getting raises, splurging with our dues, and misusing our money for their own selfish interest.” For more than two years, the group has been fighting in court for access to SEIU’s books and financial records – access they argue is protected by the California Corporation Code.
The group is also encouraging members of other labor organizations to demand access to their union’s financial records and determine exactly where their dues are being spent. They will hold another rally in Sacramento on Wednesday. These union members feel their union officers hardly represent them—another reason the law should let workers should choose their representatives.