As one of the country’s largest labor unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has no shortage of political influence. Look no further than newly minted Senator Laphonza Butler, who was an SEIU organizer long before she was a lawmaker.
But the union that claims to stand up for workers’ rights has a questionable track record with its own employees.
A newly-published report includes a collection of previously-unreported lawsuits that suggest allegations of abuse, hostile work environments, harassment, and retaliation are a common occurrence for employees at LA-based SEIU locals.
Several employees filed suits against the union claiming the hostile work environment caused them to seek medical intervention. In one of these suits against SEIU Local 121RN, the wife of a former employee claimed his union supervisors “orchestrated a campaign of instilling fear and terror within all employees.”
In fact, she claimed the work environment was so toxic it actually led to her husband’s death. Court documents state he “apparently succumbed to his disabilities and suffered a heart attack on the job due to the work related stress and hostile work environment.”
Another former employee of SEIU Local 99 alleged he was threatened with violence on the job. He claimed these verbal threats made him feel “embarrassed and humiliated.” After communicating his concerns, he believed he was left out of work communications, provided “misinformation” about his duties, and set “unrealistic performance expectations that no other employee was held to.” He claimed it got so bad that his mental health was impacted, forcing him to seek medical treatment.
Yet another union employee alleged her supervisor “created a hostile work environment for employees with the intention that they would quit.” She claimed she was diagnosed with chronic stress and depressive disorder that ultimately forced her to take medical leave.
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From claims of racial and gender discrimination to sexual harassment, these lawsuits paint a bleak picture of what it’s like to work for the SEIU. One common thread seems to be retaliation against workers who dare to speak up about their poor treatment.
In one instance, the SEIU was even forced to pay out six million dollars in damages after a jury determined the union engaged in whistleblower retaliation.
The former employee claimed he tried to warn the union’s legal department about a backlog of member grievance cases. He alleged the legal department was closing cases without appropriate investigations. After trying to bring his concerns to light, he claimed he was fired.
These lawsuits are part of what appears to be a larger pattern of bad behavior at the national union and its locals across the country.
Employees at the union’s national headquarters have accused the SEIU of willfully misclassifying employees and outsourcing work to outside firms to crack down on its unionized employees. Through these union busting tactics, the SEIU reduced its number of unionized employees by more than half from 2009 to 2019. Glassdoor Reviews of the union even feature complaints that employees are forced to work anywhere from 12-14 hour days and have no work-life balance.
Even more egregious is the several high-ranking SEIU leaders who have been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. Many of these allegations went unanswered and accusers have even alleged that the SEIU retaliated against them for speaking out.
Apparently, the union is guilty of the same practices it preaches against. Perhaps it’s time lawmakers stop doing the union favors and start holding the SEIU accountable.
Charlyce Bozzello on November 25, 2023