Earlier this year, Njoke Woods, a worker at the Service Employees International Union’s second largest local, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), accused the union of having a “culture of sexual misconduct, favoritism, and backroom dealing against the members.” She was ultimately fired for speaking out.
Now, to add insult to injury, she is being sued for defamation by the union and the SEIU International Vice President Dave Regan.
But the same union is also facing a sexual misconduct lawsuit that was brought by SEIU organizer Mindy Sturge. According to the Payday Report, the lawsuit brought by Sturge corroborates the same accusations made by Woods.
The allegations have certainly ruffled feathers at the SEIU—Vice President Regan has since made public warnings against employees who might plan to come forward with their own negative experiences. As Woods put it, “They want other people to be afraid of speaking up, they have a lot of secrets that they don’t want people to know about.”
Unfortunately, ongoing cases of sexual misconduct within today’s labor unions don’t stop with the SEIU. Amid the broader #MeToo movement, workers have been empowered to come forward with stories of workplace abuse, often at the hands of union officials. How their unions handle these accusations is a different story. As the New York Times recently reported, several unions “including the United Auto Workers have come under fire for seeming to do more to protect the jobs of the accused than the women who were their targets.”
As more employees undoubtedly come forward, let’s hope union officials put less emphasis on protecting their own skin, and more effort into protecting workers.