An unexpected lawsuit has provided dramatic new details about who
SEIU is hiring - and how much money it's spending - to carry out its
trusteeship of SEIU-UHW.
On Friday, an international security company sued SEIU in federal
court for failing to pay all of its $2.2 million in bills for
surveillance and security services related to the trusteeship. The
company, called the OSO Group, is just one of several security
companies hired by SEIU to carry out the trusteeship.
The OSO Group provides surveillance, intelligence,
counter-terrorism and other services to multinational corporations and
describes itself as "the first commercial counter-espionage group
established in the private sector." Its leaders and staff are
mainly former agents of the U.S. Secret Service, FBI and CIA, as well
as national law enforcement officials.
One of the company's top executives - Garnett Williams, an
ex-Secret Service agent who has been working directly with SEIU on its
trusteeship of SEIU-UHW - is a former executive of the Steele
Foundation, a strike-breaking company hired by Sutter Health to break
a 60-day strike by hundreds of SEIU-UHW members in 2005. In an
infamous incident during the strike, security guards kicked and
punched workers on the picket line, most of whom were women. Dietary
Aide Lorena Hernandez was hospitalized after a guard knocked her to
the ground and kicked her repeatedly in the abdomen.
According to the recently filed lawsuit, SEIU officials contacted
the OSO Group's Garnett Williams on January 14, 2009 through a former
U.S. Secret Service agent to request the company's assistance in
putting SEIU-UHW in trusteeship. The timing of SEIU's action is
notable. SEIU officials hired the company more than a week before
Trusteeship Hearing Officer Ray Marshall had presented the findings of
his trusteeship investigation to SEIU's International Executive Board
for its consideration.
On January 15th the OSO Group began its operations for SEIU,
according to the lawsuit. It deployed off-duty and retired police
officers - at $110 per hour - to conduct 24/7 surveillance of UHW's
offices. The agents, who were stationed in cars outside SEIU-UHW's
offices, attempted to intimidate union members and staff by
photographing and videotaping them as they came and left the offices. Click
here to see pictures of one of the company's plain-clothed, gun-toting
agents on the sidewalks in front of SEIU-UHW's Oakland office before
In addition to surveiling SEIU-UHW's offices, the OSO Group
provided 24/7 "protection services" to SEIU's
"out-of-town leadership. including the provision of protection
and privacy for SEIU executives involved in discreet meetings with
CEOs of major hospital organizations and one or more members of the
California Legislature and staff."It also provided
"executive protection and drivers for the upper echelon of SEIU
leadership visiting California."
According to the lawsuit, SEIU's demand for security and drivers
"continued to increase exponentially at business facilities,
hotels, and private residences."In mid-January, the OSO Group
established a 24/7 "Command Post" at a hotel in Oakland to
"coordinate the large amount of manpower, logistics, and
scheduling" demanded by SEIU.
The lawsuit also contains a stunning disclosure about SEIU's
efforts to surveil its own members' union meetings. In the first known
acknowledgement of this matter, the lawsuit indicates that SEIU
directed the OSO Group to conduct "a security and surveillance
operation" targeting thousands of members who attended five SEIU-UHW
membership meetings held in schools and auditoriums across the state
on January 24th.
At the meetings, union members discussed SEIU's demand that SEIU-UHW
transfer its 65,000 long-term care members to a new union without
first providing these members with a democratic vote on the matter.
According to the lawsuit, the OSO Group prepared a written plan in
advance of the surveillance operation, entitled "Security
Operations Plan for SEIU," which it presented to SEIU's chief
security consultant, Bullock & Associates, prior to the membership
This is the first time that official sources have acknowledged that
SEIU employed a professional intelligence firm to spy on its own
members during their membership meetings. It's unknown whether SEIU
directed the firm to spy on other meetings of SEIU-UHW's members or
Altogether, the lawsuit provides dramatic new details about the
timing, funding and execution of the trusteeship. The news that SEIU's
top officials are spending millions of dollars of their members' dues
money to hire intelligence operatives and strike-breakers to
intimidate and spy on SEIU members raises profound ethical concerns
that demand immediate attention.
here to read the full lawsuit, which includes the OSO Group's
wildly exaggerated claims about the violence that its gun-wielding
agents feared from the healthcare workers who make up SEIU-UHW.
Feel free to contact us with questions, comments, reports, etc.
More information is available at www.nuhw.org