A less perfect union - Page 5

At a time when organized labor is slipping, SEIU's national leaders are wasting their resources trying to discredit Sal Rosselli
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Sal Rosselli
Photo by Charles Russo

Furthermore, the Guardian has obtained an internal memo from Local 1021 official (and apparent Salsa Team member) Patti Tamura in which she warned union staffers that the phrase "'performance of their duties' goes beyond [Monday through Friday] and 9-5p."

One Local 1021 official who asked not to be identified told us that Tamura's memo appeared to be a clear message that staff should stay completely out of the election. "They made it perfectly clear to the lower staff that your employment doesn't stop [after hours]; you're still staff. That means you don't get involved. But now it turns out they themselves were doing it. That's a double standard ... it's certainly not right."

The messages between Salsa Team members show them actively working to recruit potential delegates sympathetic to Stern's platform and to aid Davis-Howard in her bid to represent the union at the June convention. One missive, dated Feb. 18, which appears to come from the personal e-mail account of Local 1021 employee Jano Oscherwitz and was sent to what appear to be the personal accounts of Tamura and Mooney, requests that a "message for Damita" be drafted.

A forwarded e-mail from that same day, from Oscherwitz to what appear to be personal e-mail accounts for Tamura, fellow 1021 staffer Gilda Valdez, and "Damita" includes a "Draft Message" with bulleted talking points, apparently for Davis-Howard to use as she "Collect[s] Signatures on Commitment Cards."

"Commitment cards" refers to pledges from union members to support certain delegates.

The e-mails go beyond merely aiding Davis-Howard and other Stern-backed candidates. They also include detailed strategy for opposing Rosselli and countering his message. A March 5 Salsa Team message includes an attached document with several talking points critical of the dissident leader. In the body of the e-mail, SEIU staffer Gilda Valdez advises Davis-Howard, Mooney, 1021 Chief of Staff Marion Steeg, and others to "Memorize the points in talking to folks." Valdez goes on to say in the e-mail that she "will be calling ... about your assignments."

Reached for comment, Davis-Howard confirmed that the AOL e-mail account listed as "Damita" was hers. But she claimed no knowledge of the Salsa Team or the messages sent to her. "If you're saying those e-mails went to my home computer, who knows if I ever even got them?"

Davis-Howard bristled at the suggestion that the Salsa Team's activities violated union rules. "Are you trying to tell me that I can never campaign? Does it [Rule 18] say that I have to be neutral and uninvolved 24 hours a day?"

Calls to Mooney, Oscherwitz, Valdez, and Tamura were not returned. Through an SEIU spokesman, Mooney declined to comment.

A BAD AFTERTASTE

On April 4, three days after the Guardian first reported on the Salsa Team e-mails on our Web site, Sanchez and several other 1021 officials filed a formal complaint with the union's election committee. In the complaint, they accuse Davis-Howard and the other team members of vioutf8g Rules 10 and 18 of the union's election codes. Rule 10 forbids "the use of union and employer funds ... to support any candidate."

Local 1021 executive board member and Stern appointee Ed Kinchley authored part of the complaint. According to the text, which was obtained by the Guardian, Kinchley wrote, "While telling other staff that they may be fired for any intervention in this election, Ms. Davis-Howard and the others involved secretly did exactly what they told other staff they were forbidden from doing."

The complaint was signed by 16 Local 1021 officials, including numerous members of the local's executive board.

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