#MeToo Shamefully Nowhere To Be Found as SEIU Not Only Refuses to Fire Staffers Charged With Multiple Instances of Sexual Misconduct, but Retaliates Against Press and Whistleblowers

One of my big beefs about #MeToo is that is the movement has been almost entirely about defending upper class/professionally accomplished women. No one has ridden in to demand the ouster of employees of the union Service Employees International, known as SEIU, who’ve been accused of sexual misconduct, nor has any prominent woman objected to the way SEIU has promoted some of the accused while targeting whistleblowers and intimidating reporters and media outlet who’ve covered the SEIU abuses. The #MeToo sisterhood apparently doesn’t extend to union members nor other lowly workers, like waitresses who report that workplace harassment is endemic.

The latest victim of these SEIU shakedowns is union gumshoe Mike Elk, who publishes the PayDay Report newsletter. A SEIU unit has not only threatened Elk with litigation, but is even trying to get him to expose his sources, when in most states, both statute and case law offer rock-solid protection of their confidentiality.

These SEIU threats against Elk and other members of the press are raw intimidation. Most reporters welcome defamation saber-rattling, knowing they are proof they’ve gotten under their target’s skin, since litigation would allow the journalist to do discovery and publish on anything they unearthed, which is the last thing organizations getting bad press want. But someone of limited means would lack the legal horsepower to get as far as using the power of the court to root in his opponent’s e-mails and file cabinets.

Sordid History of SEIU Harassment

SEIU has been forced to address some of executive-level misconduct, but has not only refused to respond to other charges but has gone into classic “vilify the accuser” mode.

President Mary Kay Henry’s deputy Scott Courtney departed in 2017 in the wake of a BuzzFeed expose of sexual abuse.

Henry appointed an external advisory board to address sexual harassment. Thinking it was bona fide, a former SEIU staffer sent a memo that had already gone to the Guardian (in a big mistake to Henry and a “ombudsman,” not the new board) about the misconduct of Martin Manteca, Organizing Director of SEIU Local 721, the Southern California Public Service Workers Union, with 95,000 members. In 2016, a staffer complained of having been demoted after complaining about Manteca; she was not the first to allege he’d been abusive. More than 60 staffers in Manteca’s local filed a petition decrying his retaliation.

That led to an investigation…by the SEIU ethics office. Readers who know this terrain will recognize that for a probe to have the veneer of independence, it need to be led by an outside party.

As Elk reported in early December:

In depositions, obtained by the Payday Report, 16 SEIU staffers provided testimony against Manteca. The staffers painted a picture of a boss who not only sexually harassed women in the workplace but one who would become physically confrontational and harass those who tried to stand up to him in solidarity with his accusers.

“He was an absolute sociopath,” said one staffer who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “If he was on the floor of your office, you hid at your desk. You didn’t want to see him. He was such a terror.”

Elk posted most of the affidavits in a case filed by Mindy Surge against SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. They cover sexual misconduct, including assault, by SEIU officers and mangers such as Dave Regan, Stan Lykes, Marcus Hatcher (who was eventually fired), Chokri Bensaid, and Pedro Malave (fired after a PayDay report expose). We’ve embedded them at the end of the post. They make for vivid reading.

As Elk describes, SEIU took no action against Manteca in the 2016 investigation. Elk describes another allegation, in 2018, of Manteca earlier making advances against her, which again failed to generate any sanction. Things continued to snowball:

However, despite numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and two investigations by SEIU, Manteca was allowed to continue in his post as deputy trustee of SEIU Nevada in addition to his duties as Organizing Director of the SEIU’s chapter of the SEIU Local 721, the Southern California Public Service Workers Union.

While serving as deputy trustee of SEIU Nevada, Manteca was once again accused of harassment. In a lawsuit filed in March of 2019 and obtained by Payday Report, Manteca is accused of harassing a female staffer Debbie Miller for seeking a disability accommodation for her struggle with diabetes.

Today, Manteca still serves in his position as the Director of Organizing of the Southern California Public Services Workers’ Union, where he makes $130,000-a-year…

SEIU #MeToo activists say that staffers like Manteca and Regan, who participate in hostile takeovers known as “trusteeships” of other SEIU locals, rarely face punishment. They are known within the union as part of the “wrecking crew,” a crew of bureaucratic union staffers that are intensely loyal to DC union leadership, often at the expense of local administration.

Ironically, while SEIU has used federal trusteeship powers to take over dissident unions, it has failed to use trusteeship to punish those like Regan, who stands accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. Indeed, SEIU has even permitted Regan to use his union, SEIU-UHW funds to defend the union leaderships against sexual misconduct allegations.

Notice that the only #MeToo supporters who are trying to combat these apparent serial abusers are SEIU members; there’s no evidence of interest, much the less help, from the rest of the movement.

SEIU Retaliation

Key sections from Elk’s January 29 newsletter, which I urge you to read in full:

Yesterday, SEIU Vice President Dave Regan, who also serves as President of its SEIU’s California-based affiliate SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), had SEIU-UHW General Counsel Bruce Harland send me a letter threatening to sue me for defamation for my expose on cover-ups of sexual misconduct within SEIU….

The union’s General Counsel Bruce Harland also asked me to preserve all communications as “relevant evidence” as part of its ongoing defamation lawsuit against SEIU whistleblower Njoki Woods. A lawsuit, which many consider retaliatory as Woods’ statements about sexual misconduct and threats of retaliation were backed up by others in affidavits.

Today, SEIU-UHW even took the desperate step of taking to Fox News to bash the seven women that came forward to give affidavits about sexual misconduct within SEIU as “disgruntled employees.”….

In February of 2019, SEIU-UHW attempted to subpoena Google to get the company to reveal the name of the publisher of a blog published by an anonymous SEIU whistleblower entitled “Stern Burgers with Fries.” Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed after exhaustive legal preparations from the defendant.

In March of 2019, SEIU-UHW fired Njoki Woods after she spoke out to Payday Report against sexual misconduct in her union. Now, they are suing her for defamation for an interview she gave to Payday Report in what many see as a warning shot to others thinking about speaking out about what many allege is rampant sexual misconduct within the union.

SEIU has behaved badly on other fronts. It opposed single payer. It put $100,000 into a dark money group to oppose pro-transparency, former SEIU local president JJ Jelinic in his run for the retiree seat at CalPERS. One political expert believes that former SEIU president Andy Stern is a moving force behind the self-destructive loyalty of unions to private equity.

If you’d like to help, please donate to Elk’s legal defense fund, as I have. Publicize this shameless SEIU conduct on Facebook and Twitter, and if you have any friends who are union members or leaders, or in the left-leaning press, please e-mail them about it with a short cover note. Ditto for any #MeToo activists. SEIU is engaged in thuggery, both towards women who stand up to its internal predators, and anyone on the outside who comes to their aid. It’s time to turn the tables on them.

00 SEIU Sexual Harassment Affidavits
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  1. DemoDon

    What does the acronym SEIU stand for? Where is it located ? etc

    Does it stand for Service Employees International Union ??

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Actually we like Qwant (https://www.qwant.com) because it also assures privacy but uses different algos than Google (and Bing), which importantly means it doesn’t favor “authoritative” sites and downrank small sites. But DDG certainly preferable to Google.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      My bad, will add in the body of the post. The perils of early AM drafting. Thanks to diptherio for responding.

      SEIU as is the case for large unions has some large locals. These incidents are centered in one large local but the perps are apparently important figures to the national organization.

  2. Tom Stone

    It’s a damn shame horse whips have gone out of style.
    And that “Le Droit de Seigneur” has come back into style.

    I expect this post will get more than a little attention and hopefully the thugs at the SEIU will face some serious consequences.
    If there’s a DA out there who pays attention a hard look at Pedro Malave’s recent behavior might prove fruitful, it’s very doubtful he has reformed his behavior and a decade or so in prison might improve his manners.

  3. Off The Street

    Crisis management, public relations, spin control, lying. That is all in the eye, ear or digestive tract of the beholder. Continued use of BS phrases like Disgruntled Employee, or the evergreen Rogue Memo, or Rogue Whatever, seem to defy attempts to demolish their malign intents and implications. That may be due to many factors ranging from short attention span, lack of context awareness or just no longer caring. In the meantime, malefactors continue to practice their evil ways with impunity, effectively daring injured parties to try to do something, anything, about it.

    High school students used to learn about persuasion techniques and how to spot those. Nowadays those techniques and other dark pattern arts are inescapable. It takes work to avoid that undertow.

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    What is it with SEIU? Their former leader, Andy Stern, has for years been a willing stooge for the billionaires financing the hostile takeover of public education, otherwise and falsely called “education reform.”

  5. Mark Gisleson

    I’ve made a donation to Mike Elk. Like most freelance labor reporters, he’s just barely scraping by.

  6. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Reminds me of the attitudes of the English Suffragettes who were calling for women’s rights, but were often not so keen to share them with their servants. I also recall Alan Parker while working with Madonna on the film ” Evita ” for which she needed singing lessons, commenting something along the lines of that the only note that she really excels at is ” Me ” & perhaps the present crowd should be really working under a banner of ” Me Me “.

  7. T

    Oh, the only place #metoo has any weight to throw around is bullying other women and puffing up Ronan Farrow while erasing Jane Mayer.

    Waffle waitress and nurses, that hashtag was not meant for you.

  8. ultrapope

    This episode and the episode at CALPERS you reported on a while back really helped put into perspective the very strange experience I had working with SEIU when unionization efforts began at the massive regional healthcare provider/insurer I used to work at. Since this was my first and only experience unionizing, I didn’t really question what they were doing until a few months into the effort.

    In short, SEIU exerted an insane amount of top-down control over the unionization process. After only recruiting a handful of employees (maybe a hundred out of a workforce numbering in the tens of thousands) they began a very aggressive campaign against our employer without any real knowledge of the machine they were up against. They did a lot of things like storm the provider HQ downtown in order to “personally” deliver demands to the CEO and disrupt community meetings about new hospitals being built in the region. The “agitators” almost always appeared to be full-time SEIU employees. I don’t know this for a fact, but seeing as how vague their lists of demands were I doubted any of them had really listened to the very real, concrete demands us workers had.

    In the end I left the unionization effort because many of the co-workers I approached were as afraid of SEIU as they were the healthcare provider we worked for. During my experience cold calling employees to talk about unionization (a tactic they endorsed relentlessly), I learned that many of the employees actually thought the whole thing was a front for the healthcare provider to identify and remove employees with possible pro-union allegiances. I made this known but of course none of the “leaders” thought anything of it.

    Someone I know (employed in another industry) is now unionizing with USW. The difference in their approach as compared to SEIU is like night and day – workers take on leadership roles while employees of the union simply provide resources. This includes a lot of training about approaching co-workers and not scaring them off. Much time has been spent covertly organizing the workers before going public. Most importantly, the workers have a very concrete and nuanced list of demands clearly articulated by individuals who work in the actual company. Their stance is less “take down the corporate beast!” and more “we need these changes in order to make this company better”.

    Thanks for posting this article and your previous article about SEIU and CALPERS. It helped me see that my extremely poor experience with unionization efforts was more representative of the shoddy union than with the unionization process itself.

  9. Eclair

    As many of you will know, nurses at Seattle’s Swedish-Providence hospitals are in the third day of their three day strike. Among other issues, they are calling for more staffing; 600 open positions are unfilled, requiring nurses to often extend their 12 hours shifts to 16 hours. SEIU is their union.

    I marched with them yesterday afternoon, from the hospital’s First Hill facility down to Westlake Park in the center of downtown. I was impressed with the organization. Tons of signs to carry, purple knitted hats to wear, and, this being Seattle, think plastic ponchos with SEIU’s logo in purple. Speakers touched on universal health care, social housing, economic and racial justice. Lots of support from the sidelines, honking, waving, etc.

    As we marched , in between chants, I mused about the history of unions in my time … from my grandmother’s family who were active in electrical and carpentry unions, to my blacksmith grandfather whose 50 years with the Brotherhood of Railway Workers allowed him to buy a home and have a dignified retirement (likewise with my father-in-law and his membership in the Teamsters.) Then, through the demonization (not entirely without merit) of unions starting tin he 70’s, the corruption of Jimmy Hoffa, the breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike. And the resulting stagnation of wages.

    How can unions guard against this tendency of their leaders to become ‘management,’ to be corrupted by their very success and the power this brings. We better figure it out before we find ourselves in an unstoppable downward spiral.

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