Friction between Stern and Rosselli — over the merger, leadership, and labor movement strategy — heated up throughout 2007 and 2008; Rosselli was unanimously booted off of Stern's "kitchen cabinet" of labor leaders, and removed from his post as president of SEIU's California State Council.
Then on Jan. 22, 2009, an SEIU-commissioned report by former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall recommended trusteeship — if Rosselli's union didn't abide by the transfer of its long-term care workers. A few days later Rosselli and the UHW executive board sent Stern a letter saying they would abide by the merger — if the UHW rank and file could vote on it first. No deal: on Jan. 27, UHW was put into trusteeship: its buildings were locked up, security guards patrolled the perimeters, and many of the deposed union staff camped out on the floors of their old offices.
On the afternoon of the 27th, Rosselli, who had been reelected UHW president earlier that month, spoke to cheering supporters: "[It's] your right to determine what union you want to be in!"
NUHW members insist it's never been about Rosselli or the other defendants. "We are not just a bunch of lemmings — we do what we believe," said Tonya Britton, a Fremont convalescent home worker. "They couldn't make it this far if there weren't all of us members ... When I heard about the trusteeship, I wanted a union that was for members, not top-down. We were making gains. Now it seems we're doing nothing but fighting."
Christopher D. Cook is a former Bay Guardian city editor. He has written on labor for Mother Jones, Harper's, The Economist and others. This story was funded in part by spot.us.