FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Andrew McDonald
May 20, 2008 202-730-7338
Rank-and-File Members Bring Lawsuit Against UHW-W
Officers Demanding Return of Nearly $200,000 in Dues
Money Diverted to Unlawful, Off-the-Books Fund
Rank-and-file members of SEIU California affiliate United Healthcare Workers-West
(UHW-W) today filed a lawsuit against two dozen of UHW-W’s top officers, demanding
the return of nearly $200,000 in dues money that was illegally transferred from the
UHW-W treasury into an outside, off-the-books fund and which is still unaccounted for.
The lawsuit, being filed today in United States District Court for the Central District of
California, is brought by UHW-W members Michelle Collins of Los Angeles, and
Katherine Gayle of Lancaster, CA, on behalf of all UHW-W members. The suit was filed
after UHW-W officers failed to respond to a request that all of the money be returned.
In May 2007, the executive board of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (UHW-W)
instituted a plan to divert up to $6 million – nearly 40 percent of UHW-W’s net assets --
into an outside fund created by and controlled by the local’s top ten officers. The ten
officers are UHW-W President Sal Rosselli, Executive Vice President Jorge Rodriguez,
Secretary Treasurer Joan Emslie, and seven members of the local union’s executive
board. Between May 2007 and February 2008 at least $3 million of the authorized $6
million from the local union treasury is known to have been diverted to this fund.
On April 29, 2008, a separate lawsuit was filed by SEIU International against the ten
directors of the UHW-W officers’ outside fund (SEIU v. Sal Rosselli, Jorge Rodriguez,
Joan Emslie, et. al.), seeking to return to the UHW-W treasury the $3 million that is
known to have been diverted. Since that lawsuit was filed three weeks ago, UHW has
made partial restitution to its members, but nearly $200,000 remains unaccounted for.
The purpose of the UHW-W members’ lawsuit being filed today is to compel the
immediate return of approximately $192,000 in UHW-W members’ monies spent or held
outstanding by the outside fund. The outstanding money consists of approximately
$122,500 that was spent by the outside fund and another $69,000 that continues to be
held in a banking account tied to the fund.
“Our dues money needs to be returned to UHW-W members -- now,” said Ms. Gayle.
“Now that these issues have come to light, there is no reason why any of our money
should still be tied up in this fund outside the union and beyond members’ control.
Instead of being straight with the members, UHW-W’s leaders are acting like they have
something to hide.”
The first ten defendants in the lawsuit are the UHW-W officers who comprise the board
of the outside fund. The remaining defendants are the UHW-W staff officers who hold
the title Administrative Vice President, and who are union fiduciaries under the UHW-W
Constitution and Bylaws. The defendants breached their fiduciary duties when they
misled UHW-W members about the purpose of the fund in authorizing and transferring
money to the fund.
Federal law (29 U.S.C. § 501(b)) gives union members the right to sue union officers
when they violate their fiduciary duties and fail to remedy, within a reasonable period of
time, problems regarding the proper handling of union funds.
Collins wrote to the members of the UHW-W Executive Board nearly two weeks ago,
asking them to take action to recover all of the outstanding funds and requesting that
“[n]o local union monies should be spent defending the actions of [the UHW-W]
officers” who were sued separately by SEIU in an attempt to recover these monies. As of
May 19, Collins had received no response to her demand.