The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Michelle Ringuette

SEIU to Lead Comprehensive Ethics Reform Initiative

International Calls on All Locals to Immediately Adopt Uniform Ethics Standards


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
today announced a major new initiative aimed at bolstering the union's
ethical guidelines and establishing a 21st Century model of best
practices for organized labor. As part of the effort, SEIU announced
the immediate formation of a Commission on Ethics and Standards with a
clear 90-day mandate to deliver recommendations for improving the
Union's existing ethics guidelines, practices, education and
enforcement standards. SEIU also publicly called on all locals to
immediately adopt as a baseline the SEIU Code of Ethical Practices to
protect the interests of members everywhere.

"Reform is an
ongoing business requiring constant commitment and work," said SEIU
President Andy Stern. "We recognize that we need to change in order to
win for our rank-and-file members. Over the last 12 years, we have
taken on corruption and the old political fiefdoms to build a modern
organization to meet the needs of 21st Century workers and families.
As our union has rapidly grown, so has the need to establish stronger
accountability mechanisms.

"We represent some of the
hardest-working men and women in America, and they have an absolute
right to expect that their interests are protected and that their
leaders are held accountable to the highest standards of honesty and

The Commission has been given far-reaching authority
by President Stern. In addition to SEIU representatives, the Commission
on Ethics and Standards will include outside authorities in ethics,
labor and law and will be chaired by an independent expert. The
Commission will be charged with reviewing existing rules and best
practices, as well as delivering a comprehensive package of
recommendations on how to improve current policies and procedures to
ensure SEIU and its leadership is being held accountable to the members
and that the Union serves as the ethics benchmark for organized labor

Additionally, because SEIU's democratic structure
allows each local to develop and adopt their own ethics guidelines, the
International is calling on every local to immediately adopt as a
baseline the Code of Ethical Practices adopted by SEIU in June 2005
that protects the interests of all members by establishing:

* Prohibitions on conflicts of interest, including dealings with entities in which officers and managers have financial interests and establishing clear guidelines regarding nepotism and self-dealing;
* Prohibitions on gifts or payments from restricted sources;
* Strict standards on the use of union property for personal/other uses to avoid any self-dealing;
* Limits on officer and manager compensation from funds established for the provision of health, welfare, or retirement benefits; and
* Restrictions against those previously convicted of serious abuses from serving in officer or managerial roles.

ethics initiative is being launched following SEIU's aggressive actions
to protect members in the face of recent allegations involving
California locals.

Local 6434: In mid-August, the Union launched
an investigation of Local 6434 in Los Angeles. Immediately following
the launch of the investigation, the local's president went on leave
for the duration of the investigation; SEIU appointed a trustee for the
local; former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp was retained
to assist with the investigation; and former California Supreme Court
Justice Joseph Grodin agreed to serve as hearing officer in the matter.

Local 721: Following internal allegations against Local 721, the
Union acted to obtain reimbursement of funds that may have been
improperly paid in violation of a signed agreement to an outside party.
Because of Annelle Grajeda's position as president of Local 721 and the
State Council during much of this period, she has requested a temporary
leave from all union positions during the International's investigation
of this matter.

United Healthcare Worker-West: In response to
allegations of financial malpractice and membership retaliation charges
against Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers-West, SEIU called for a
trusteeship hearing and placed a monitor onsite to review all financial
activities. At an upcoming hearing, an outside hearing officer will
review significant evidence on whether a trusteeship is warranted at
UHW-W following allegations that the leadership engaged in a pattern of
misconduct, financial malpractice and fraud involving the diversion of
millions of dollars of union treasury monies, in possible violation of
federal law.

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.