SEIU’s Multiple Dealings with Private Security Contractors

paul-garver-edited by Paul Garver

SEIU’s involvement with the private security industry is multi-faceted. It organizes employees of private security companies, hires private security companies to provide it with surveillance and protection services, and finally is being sued by one private security company for alleged failure to pay all of its bills related to its trusteeship over SEIU-UHW

On the first of May, the OSO GROUP, LTD, sued SEIU in Federal District Court in San Francisco to recover $924,434.13 it claims SEIU still owes on its total bill of $2.2 million for providing it with investigation and protection services in January 2009 in connection with SEIU’s trusteeship over UHW-W.

Legal documents generally make for dull and repetitious reading, and this lawsuit is no exception. It is of no great interest whether SEIU was legally required to pay an additional one-hour daily round trip “home to work” charge of $110 each time that an off-duty cop travelled to spy on a UHW meeting, or provide protection to a visting SEIU official. In fact I can imagine that this lawsuit, which is merely over money and not over any matters of principle, will quickly be settled.

But in the meantime some interesting details can be found. For instance on page 12: “Between January 15 and January 20, 2009 the demand for manpower, security, and protection services, and drivers continued to increase exponentially at business facilities, hotels and private residences …to cover SEIU meetings and events connected to the anticipated trusteeship.” On the same page the OSO Group describes its staffing a security and surveillance operation at UHW meetings that occured beginning January 24 in Oakland, Sausalito, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Arcadia.

These meetings OSO was surveilling for SEIU were the same UHW assemblies where the UHW leaders consulted 7000 members on the Marshall arbitration decision and developed a complex response that met at least some of his proposed conditions. But, instructed to “document and legally perfect the grounds for SEIU’s trusteeship over UHW,” OSO could hardly report back on UHW’s good-faith effort.

Is it not justified to conclude that the “shock and awe” invasion of California was already decided and underway before SEIU received this response from UHW? Just as private security firms formed an integral part of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, their services were needed to help justify the SEIU invasion of California. These services continued after the trusteeship was imposed on January 27. For instance, on page 3 of the lawsuit, OSO said it provided “executive protection and drivers for the upper echelon of SEIU leadership visiting California during the UHW transition period including the provision of protection and privacy for SEIU executives involved in discrete meetings with CEOs of major hospital organizations.”

The OSO Group was told that their extensive investigatory and protection services were required because of the possibility of violence from those resisting the trusteeship and the seizure of UHW offices. The Group pretends shock that after it courageously rose to the occasion, SEIU failed to pay all of its bills and to provide the group with a written engagement agreement including an indemnification provision.

I find especially disturbing the massive use of an external private security service to “document and legally perfect the grounds for the trusteeship over UHW.” Rather than preparing for war, SEIU would have done better to have carefully analyzed the UHW-W’s response to Marshall’s arbitration decision and agreed to negotiate over the contested points. Now SEIU faces a long war of attrition with NUHW in California’s healthcare sector, one that already has forced UHW trustee Eliseo Medina to reassign most SEIU staff who had been working on CTW political campaigns to try to quell the insurgency.

SEIU posses many valuable assets–its large membership, its varied and respected local unions, its political and mobilization skills. But organizations resort to force only when they are losing their moral compass. Will SEIU’s good name survive its constant aggressive battles with its own dissidents in California, with HERE, with the Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers? Better to bury the hatchet, as SEIU has done with the California Nurses Association, negotiate differences with other labor organizations and focus on the real problems facing American workers.

2 Responses

  1. well said…thanks.

  2. […] Multiple Dealings with Private Security Contractors SEIU’s involvement with the private security industry is multi-faceted. It organizes employees of private security companies, hires private security companies to provide it with surveillance and protection services. […]

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