• A jury trial pitting SEIU against its former officials who formed a rival union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, began in San Francisco on March 23. SEIU sued NUHW under the Labor Management Relations Act, the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, alleging that NUHW stole membership data and breached SEIU’s constitution. The lawsuit arose from events in January 2009, when SEIU placed its UHW local into trusteeship and ousted its leaders. In protest to the trusteeship, the UHW leaders barricaded themselves inside the office; those leaders formed NUHW the next day. Prior to the trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that during the barricade, those officers had destroyed or removed records in violation of the union’s constitution. The court upheld a temporary restraining order which required NUHW to preserve any UHW property in its possession and return all nonelectronic UHW documents. The San Francisco trial is expected to last two weeks.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a former union president who brought suit under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Mark Serafinn, who served three terms as president of Teamsters Local 722 until he was defeated in 2001, won a $105,000 jury verdict on his claim that the union brought internal disciplinary charges against him after he accused his opponent of cronyism and other misconduct. The Seventh Circuit rejected the union’s argument that the “mixed motive” theory of liability is available in cases arising under the LMRDA. However, the court also affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the Teamsters Joint Council 65, finding that Serafinn had failed to show that the council engaged in unlawful retaliation.
  • An arbitrator found that Detroit-based American Axle & Manufacturing Holding’s off-shoring of certain work to Mexico violated its 2008 contract with the United Auto Workers. The ruling ordered American Axle to determine the number of workers affected by the outsourcing and make them whole by paying lost wages and benefits. The arbitrator held that the 2008 contract, which ended an 87-day strike, clearly required American Axle to produce specified products at American plants. Prior to the strike, UAW Local 235 represented 1,985 workers at American Axle’s Detroit plant; after the strike, American Axle reduced the workforce to 300 employees and Local 235 dissolved.
  • A federal judge declined to order a NLRB Regional office to seek injunctive relief against a union that had placed a rat balloon and a banner outside an Ohio hospital. The judge found that St. Elizabeth’s Hospital had failed to state a claim under the NLRA, and as a result the court lacked jurisdiction. The union, Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, had sought to represent 15 workers employed at a business owned by a hospital manager; when the manager denied the union’s request, the union placed a rat balloon and a banner criticizing the manager outside the hospital. The hospital argued that these actions violated a section of the NLRA that prohibits unions from engaging in activity against a second employer, with whom the union does not have a labor dispute, to pressure the primary employer to recognize the union.
  • A union pension fund sued directors of Goldman Sachs, alleging that the firm’s allocation of nearly half its revenue to management compensation constitutes corporate waste. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 Pension Fund’s shareholder derivative suit is seeking an injunction prohibiting Goldman Sachs from spending more than 47 percent of 2009 net revenues on compensation, and a declaratory judgment that its directors breached their fiduciary duties. Similar shareholder derivative suits against Goldman Sachs are pending in New York and Delaware, and Goldman’s board has received several demand letters from shareholders asking Goldman to investigate and reform its compensation system. Goldman stated that it believes the union’s suit to be meritless.
  • A federal judge in Chicago enforced an arbitration award requiring the Illinois Central Railroad to reinstate a conductor who was convicted of embezzling $63,000 in union funds and served 16 months in federal prison. William Miller, who worked for Illinois Central as a machinist and was a member of International Association of Machinists Local 498, embezzled the funds while serving as secretary-treasurer of the local between 1998 and 2000. When Miller pleaded guilty in 2005, he was working as a conductor and was represented by the United Transportation Union, which successfully pursued an arbitration claim on his behalf seeking reinstatement and back pay. The federal court enforced the arbitration award ordering reinstatement; however, the court rejected the award of back pay for the time that Miller was incarcerated, finding that Miller was not “available to work” and therefore back pay would constitute a windfall.