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Office of Labor-Management Standards
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U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Labor-Management Standards
Division of Enforcement
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 693-0143 Fax: (202) 693-1343

 

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2010

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Dear |||||||||:

This Statement of Reasons is in response to your complaint filed on July 27, 2010, alleging that a violation of Title IV of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. §481-484, occurred in connection with the mail ballot election of officers in Service Employees International Union Local 721, which concluded on
March 26, 2010.

The Department of Labor conducted an investigation of your allegations. As a result of the investigation, the Department has concluded that there was no violation of the LMRDA.

You alleged that the election committee’s decision to post the candidate statements on the union’s website rather than mail them to each member constituted a violation of the LMRDA. There is no provision in the LMRDA, the international constitution and bylaws, the local bylaws, or the election rules that requires the union to mail candidate statements to its members. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act.

You alleged that the 721 Members First (721 M1) slate, led by incumbent president Robert Schoonover, used funds collected from non-SEIU voting members to finance its campaign mailings. Article 5, Section 2 of the SEIU Constitution states, “No candidate (including a prospective candidate) for any …office in a Local Union or supporter of any candidate may solicit or accept financial support or any other direct or indirect support of any kind from any nonmember of the International Union.” The Department reviewed photocopies of campaign contribution checks and records of cash donations to the 721 M1 slate. The documents showed that campaign funds were raised from personal donations made by SEIU members. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act.

You further alleged three instances of improper campaigning by union staff: (1) ||||||||| campaigned on behalf of the 721 M1 slate at a meeting of court reporters where the refreshments served were paid for with union funds; (2) ||||||||| campaigned for the 721 M1 slate outside University of Southern California (USC) Medical Center while on union time; and (3) ||||||||| removed a Members for a Democratic Union (MDU) slate campaign flyer from a union bulletin board.

The Department found insufficient evidence to substantiate your claim of improper campaigning by |||||||||. Based on information available on the union’s website, as well as media coverage of the impending furloughs at the Los Angeles Courthouse, the Department determined that the meeting was held to address legitimate union business. The Department, at your suggestion, interviewed ||||||||| regarding this allegation. ||||||||| was unable to provide reliable support for your allegation. He had no first-hand knowledge of improper campaigning because he did not attend the meeting. ||||||||| told the Department he heard from other members that campaigning occurred at the meeting. Those members were subsequently interviewed and did not provide evidence to support the allegation. In addition, the Department interviewed a union member who attended the meeting. He stated that ||||||||| and local president Schoonover attended the meeting and discussed what they had accomplished for the members and stated that they would continue to support them. At no point, however, did they ask the members to vote for the 721 M1 slate. The Department concluded that |||||||||’ and Mr. Schoonover’s statements did not constitute improper campaigning under the LMRDA.

The evidence showed that ||||||||| was on personal time instead of union-paid time when she campaigned outside the USC Medical Center. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act that would provide the basis for litigation by the Department.

The Department determined that ||||||||| reposted the MDU slate campaign flyer within five hours of removing it. There is insufficient evidence to prove that the temporary removal of the flyer had an effect on the election. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act that would provide the basis for litigation by the Department.

You further alleged that the 721 M1 slate used the union’s membership list to make campaign calls. Supporters of the 721 M1 slate stated that the 721 M1 slate’s phone list was developed using phone numbers obtained from nominating petitions they had collected and the candidates’ personal contacts. You identified only one member, |||||||||, who allegedly received an improper campaign call. ||||||||| stated that he had received a campaign call urging support of the 721 M1 slate at his home phone number even though he had not given the 721 M1 slate his phone number. Even if the 721 M1 slate obtained |||||||||’s contact information from the union’s membership list, a single campaign call would not have affected the outcome of the election. Therefore, because the Department was unable to substantiate your allegation, it does not provide a basis for litigation.

You further alleged that the 721 M1 slate illegally used 721, the local union’s designation number, in its slate name and, in doing so, misled members. There is no provision in the LMRDA, the international constitution and bylaws, the local bylaws, or the election rules that prohibits the use of the local’s designation number in a slate name. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act.

Finally, you alleged that the union failed to provide adequate safeguards. Specifically, you claimed that voters were confused by the words “By-Laws Election” printed on the ballot return envelope. The investigation found that the words “Bylaws Vote” were indeed erroneously printed above the correct ballot return mailing address. The Department was unable to substantiate that voters were confused by this error and that such confusion affected the outcome of the election. Therefore, it does not provide a basis for litigation.

For the reasons set forth above, the Department has concluded that there was no violation of Title IV of the LMRDA, and I have closed the file regarding this matter.

Sincerely,

 

Patricia Fox
Chief, Division of Enforcement

cc: Mary Kay Henry, International President
Service Employees International Union
1800 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Robert Schoonover, President
SEIU Local 721
500 South Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90020

Katherine E. Bissell, Associate Solicitor for Civil Rights and Labor-Management