Learn what is REALLY going on.

In the past months our Chapter has experienced many strange events.  A Union Organizer had spread false information in union meetings regarding the nurse staffing committee and organized nurses to protest and disrupt the nurse staffing committee which is composed of half nursing members and half nursing administration appointees.  Shortly after this occurrence the Union Organizer was “let go or moved on” after the elected chapter officers demanded that such occur.  


To understand the next sequence of events, it is necessary to review and understand the most secretive document within the RN Union…  The RN Union Bylaws.  This document is not listed on the RN Union website, nor is it provided to any Delegate or Officer.  It is only obtainable through information request, note the quality of what was provided.  I did modify the Bylaws that were provided by running an optical character recognition program to make it possible to cut and paste the language for membership to use.  Now on with the story…


The biyearly union election occurred.  Prior to the Union Organizer being “let go,” the organizer helped organize the creation and circulation of a petition targeting the current Union Officers.  The petition that was created was circulated by on-call nurses and some other nurses who stated to membership that this petition was intended to prevent the reduction of RN3 job class positions.  The petition was actually worded to be a protest and non-confidence vote for having an unopposed election. The document implied that inappropriate actions had occurred in order to create an unopposed election.  The unopposed election pertained also to the District Office candidates.  During the circulation of the petition, many members called me stating that they signed a petition document based on what they were orally told the petition related to, and then upon reading the document demanded to have their name removed.  There are names that were crossed off the petition AFTER reading it, but many nurses that demanded to have their name removed after the fact were not given the opportunity to do so.  When this document was sent to the District Office (the employer of the Organizer that was let go), that Organizers’ boss “interpreted” the document to be an official election appeal requiring that that the Election Board reconsider the validity of the election.  For a legal reelection to occur, a clear Bylaw violation needed to have occurred.  No Bylaws were violated that would give rise to the ability of the Election Board to invalidate an election.  The Election Board decision noted that this had NOT been an ordinary election in that initially the Election Board had determined that Western State Hospital would be provided a second Executive Board position.  I had repeatedly pointed out to the RN Union that for two years, DSHS had gone underrepresented by one Executive Board member.  This two year underrepresentation of DSHS was a direct violation of Bylaw Article VI (3e) and (8).  The second Executive Board position for WSH was, from what I was told, the Developmental Disabilities position that had been vacant for two years, WSH did not have 400 members so as to warrant its own automatic second Executive Board position.  Except for ESH, none of the other facilities within DSHS have 200 members to warrant an automatic Executive Board position, so the number of Executive Board positions within DSHS is determined through TOTAL count of members within the DSHS bargaining unit.  Thus WHERE the Executive Board position came from was not intrinsicly relevant.  


In an odd turn of events, WHILE the WSH chapter underwent its biyearly election petition submission and approval of petition process, the Election Board decided that WSH would NOT get a second Executive Board position.  Candidates were notified of this change.  Two candidates had applied for Executive Board position number two.  Those candidates were told by the Election Board that they would be included in the election for the single Executive Board position for WSH.  Both candidates for Executive Board position number two voluntarily withdrew their candidacy on their own accord.  


Two years ago WSH chose to structure its officers in the same manner as at Eastern State Hospital.  The concept of Chair had been a carry-over of the WSNA structure before WSNA was decertified by the RN’s of DSHS and 1199NW was brought in as the representing union.  Thus the position of outdated “Chair” concept was replaced by Executive Chair.  This allowed the Executive Chair of each facility to meet monthly at the Executive Board Meeting to discuss grievances and issues each other was experiencing.  This led to collaboration and unification of union committees throughout DSHS.  The Executive Chair was the Co-Chair of the Joint Nurse Staffing Committee and present at all negotiations and most grievance hearings.  The District Office could not legally dictate to any Chapter how it is to be structured as the Bylaws do not allow for this.  There is no Bylaw definition for Chair, Vice-Chair, or Corresponding Secretary.  For Executive Board (or Executive Chair), Bylaw Article VI Section 1 defines those duties.  It was illegal for the Election Board to impose on Western State Hospital alone (of all 1199NW facilities) to have positions for Chair, Vice-Chair, or Corresponding Secretary. 


After the previous organizer was “let go,” a series of organizers were assigned to cover WSH.  Organizers are employees of the Union and are represented by another labor union.  Think of Organizers as being similar to Human Resources personnel in that they are NOT in supervisory chain of command.  Organizers can give advice and material support to membership, but membership is what runs the union and makes ALL decisions.  An Organizer cannot legally enter into agreements or file grievances exclusive of a member signature.  Chapter Officers speak for membership, an Organizer cannot do so in any format.   


When the Election Board rendered a decision regarding the WSH election based on the circulated petition, the elected officers filed an official appeal to the District Hearing & Appeals Board under Bylaw Article VII Section 1k.  The elected officers petitioned the District Hearing & Appeals Board to render a remedial action to pend the reelection until after the District Hearing & Appeals Board (DHAB) rendered its decision so that IF the DHAB ruled that a reelection was necessary under the Bylaws, the elected officers could run as candidates in the reelection.  In response to this petition, the Chief Counsel stated in writing that HE would not allow this petition to pend the reelection to be presented to the DHAB (in violation of Bylaws).  The reelection was directed to proceed, preventing the elected offers from running.


At the District Hearing & Appeals Board Hearing that was held AFTER the reelection, we were not in a position to explain exactly WHY we could not run in the illegal reelection besides stating that running in an illegal election that was held prior to the DHAB hearing and decision would present an air of impropriety…  It was possible that doing so would improperly influence the DHAB and bias the results.   What we could not state at the hearing was that the DHAB results could be appealed to SEIU International because the DHAB that was convened by the union was not a legal entity under the Bylaws.  It was unwise to state to the DHAB that it was an illegal body that did not conform to Article VIII of the Bylaws in any way. 


The District Hearing & Appeals Board is outlined in Article VIII of the Bylaws.  DHAB is the sole check and balance process within the union to provide due process and oversight over the actions of District Union Officers, Organizers and other Boards such as the Election Board. For over a decade now (or several), the District Hearing & Appeals Board did NOT exist at 1199NW (or may have NEVER truly existed).  District Hearing & Appeals Board in Bylaw Article VIII Section 2b&c is elected for a two year term at the District Delegate Assembly.  It is composed of seven members and two alternates.  Each DHAB is to have a Chairperson and a Secretary elected by the members of the DHAB.  The Chairperson and Secretary perform the duties that in our case were done by the Chief Counsel who is not a member, eliminating any vestige of attempted legitimacy into the process.


What 1199NW did by holding a sham DHAB hearing was unconscionable.  When we initially filed for a DHAB hearing, we requested that the case be forwarded directly to SEIU International to hear, instead of 1199NW because of the level of Bylaw violation that was occurring.  1199NW refused to provide all the information that was requested prior to the hearing, this included the request to provide a copy of all information which the Election Board used to render its decision.  We learned that the President of 1199NW had assigned the Chief Counsel to oversee BOTH the Election Board AND the District Hearing & Appeals Board…  AND be the one responsible for providing all information that was requested…  Even though the Chief Counsel was the one that essentially made the Election Board Decision which resulted in the DHAB filing.  This information WAS presented to the sham DHAB.  


Now we come to the Organizer versus Member component.  Members (like myself) can be unpredictable.  Members are not paid in any manner for being Delegates, Officers, or members of the Executive Board.  We help people for the sake of helping.  Members will fight for what is right.  Organizers are employees of 1199NW, if they do not do the bidding of District Officers, they will be let go.  Organizers therefore belong to their own union which hopefully protects their rights as 1199NW employees.  Organizers are NEVER to be elected by the District Delegate Assembly to be a chairperson or secretary of any Board, these positions are for members only as the decisions made by any Board will affect members.  Organizers are NOT accountable to membership, they are support personnel only, EXCEPT under Bylaw Article VIII Section 1 where the District Hearing & Appeals Board can address the incompetence of an organizer.  Of course for decades, 1199NW has not had a DHAB.  In the case of the Election Board which caused all the trouble in the first place, the chairperson was an Organizer (in violation of the Bylaws).  This is how we knew from the documents that we were dealing with an illegal Election Board in the first place.


At this time 1199NW is NOT a democratic union which abides by its Bylaws or the Bylaws of SEIU International.  For decades there has been no checks, balances, or oversight of the union.  Why would the President of 1199NW allow such a situation to continue?  In a dictatorship, oversight over leadership can never be allowed to occur.   In the case of 1199NW, Organizers serve as the dictator’s paid lieutenants (with our dues).  But isn’t the President elected every two years?  Has the President ever ran opposed?  The answer is no.  I can explain why.  1199NW used to be a small union with relatively few chapters.  The election process remains a vestige of its small origin.  The petition process as it currently exists, essentially precludes ANYONE from going to ALL the 1199NW represented hospitals within Washington in order to get a percentage of signatures to appear on a ballot as a District level officer.  At present, there is no process for placing ALL interested candidates on a combined interested candidate petition that would be circulated in all represented chapters as occurs currently with the District Officers.  It is precisely this scenario that results in the prevention of initiation of actual Election Boards and District Hearing & Appeals Boards which would have addressed these issues long ago.   


So what do we do?  The most asked question I get lately is should the DSHS nurses decertify 1199NW as we had done with WSNA?  I view 1199NW to be very similar to the level of dysfunction that I experience working with State Government.  Even though there is dysfunction within State Government, there are laws, rules, and oversight agencies that can act as a check and balance.  Within 1199NW, the issue is that there are no checks and balances currently…  BUT those checks and balances can be forced upon them.  We are in the process of doing this now, hence the level of attack that is being perpetuated by Organizers against the true elected chapter officers.  Although 1199NW will require external oversight for a long time, I believe that SEIU International will rise to the occasion and impose strict Bylaw adherence upon 1199NW.  With Bylaw adherence, 1199NW can be fixed.  In the next District Delegate Assembly, I will place my name for nomination to the District Hearing & Appeals Board.  I look forward to ASSURING that 1199NW is compliant and that all Boards are elected and serve as is required by the Bylaws by members in good standing.  Making all of this information public knowledge was an important step.  We had been attempting to address this through internal processes that did not exist.  Acknowledging strife from within the union often portrays weakness to the employer.  In this case it was unavoidable and necessary.  Lets work together to initiate checks, balances, and accountability within 1199NW.  Know your Bylaws! 


With regard to the sham reelection, ordered by the sham Election Board and sustained by the sham District Hearing & Appeals Board…  The DHAB ruling is being appealed to SEIU International along with assertions of misconduct by District Officers who prevented adherence to Bylaws.  District Officers that took part in presenting the sham Boards to membership as being legitimate will held accountable as will organizers that participated in the process.  


An objection regarding the conduct of the reelection at WSH is being filed with the 1199NW President by the actual elected officers of the WSH Chapter.  The grounds for this objection are the following:  


  1. 1199NW violated Bylaw Article VII Section 1a by not electing members in good standing to an Election Board at the District Delegate Assembly and not designating two members as chairperson and secretary.  In violation of Article VII 1b the person acting as the chairperson was not a member in good standing, it was an Organizer.  Thus an Election Board did not exist legally when it rendered a ruling that invalidated the Western State Hospital Chapter election.
  2. The President of 1199NW assigned the Chief Counsel to oversee and draft an Election Board decision AND District Hearing & Appeals Board decision violating Article VI, Article VII, and Article VIII.  The Chief Counsel influenced both decisions.  One appointed sudden member of the DHAB even served on the negotiation team with DSHS thus creating bias that was clearly observable at the pho hearing.  The role that the Chief Counsel was directed to perform should have been performed by the elected chairperson and secretary of the Election Board and District Hearing & Appeals Board who is a member in good standing.  The Chief Counsel is NOT a member in good standing.  1199NW has no legitimate Election Board or District Hearing & Appeals Board that had the power to determine the invalidation of the Western State Hospital Chapter election.  1199NW should have referred the entire matter to SEIU International. 
  3. The President of 1199NW assigned Chief Counsel to respond FOR the District Hearing & Appeals Board requests for information and remedial actions which included having the DHAB make a remedial action of postponing a reelection until such time that the appellants could run in such a reelection if one was ordered by the DHAB.  This action is a gross and knowing violation of Article VII and VIII.  As stated, the Chief Counsel is NOT a member in good standing. 
  4. The President of 1199NW ordered the sudden creation of a false District Hearing and Appeals Board instead of referring the appeal to SEIU International in violation of Article VIII as had been requested.  An official elected Board should have heard, not only the appeal, but the SEIU International Hearing and Appeals Board should have heard the initial alleged election objection as 1199NW did not have a legal Election Board.


In short, we do not view the reelection to be based on any legitimate action taken within our Bylaws, to the contrary, 1199NW attempted to prevent the elected Chapter Officers from running because they had taken actions to impose 1199NW to comply with their own Bylaws.  


It is expected that 1199NW will continue to take retaliatory action against the true WSH elected Chapter Officers.  We are here to stay and will continue to represent membership as needed…  We will protect our members from the employer by enforcing our contract AND will protect our members from Union misconduct through enforcement of the Bylaws.  Let us know if you have encountered misconduct from Organizers or other union personnel.  We will act quickly to present the issue to SEIU International.  

   

© Paul Vilja 2017