Last week, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry made headlines when she raised the possibility of expelling police unions from the AFL-CIO.
“We need to function as an anti-racist organization,” Henry told In These Times. “So given that principle, I think it’s critical that we have tough conversations and we engage on the hard issues, and that if we can’t get that to occur, I understand that expulsion is an option that has to be considered.”
While the move led many on the left to applaud Henry, others say that Henry could practice what she preached by cleaning up her own union, and particularly start with the men who have been accused of sexual misconduct like SEIU Vice President Dave Reagan.
Earlier this year, Reagan was forced to settle a high-profile sexual misconduct case. Despite this settlement and numerous other credible allegations, they have allowed Reagan to continue in his role as both a Vice President of SEIU International and as President of the 100,000 powerhouse mega-local SEIU-United Health Care Workers (SEIU-UHW).
“It’s always easier to clean someone else’s house,” jokes attorney Kyra Subbotin, who led the sexual misconduct lawsuit against SEIU-UHW, a major affiliate of SEIU by Reagan that resulted in that settlement.
Like Reagan, our review of the cases of six men, who are accused of sexual misconduct and still employed by the SEIU, paints a troubling picture of a union that has been plagued by sexual misconduct scandals.
A more than year-long investigation by Payday Report published last January revealed that top officers of the 1.9 million-member SEIU, including President Henry, have not only failed to take action against sexual predators in its union, but have promoted some men after they were accused of sexual misconduct.
Exclusive interviews with dozens of unions staffers, and court documents obtained by Payday Report this past winter, show that SEIU has not only failed to take action but has often retaliated against whistleblowers.
At the time of the breaking of news of widespread sexual misconduct allegations in the fall of 2017, Henry appointed an external advisory board to look into sexual misconduct composed of Debra Katz, a top civil rights lawyer who represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during the Supreme Court nomination hearing over now-confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, former White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz, and Fatima Goss Graves, president, and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.
However, Payday Report’s investigation showed that the board failed to issue public recommendations as Henry failed to take action to remove men.
“What happened to the high-profile task force that SEIU said it was appointing to look into the sexual harassment problems within its own ranks?” Subbotin asks. “Did that task force do anything, or was it only window-dressing? Where’s the report or findings, and why hasn’t SEIU shared it with its membership? SEIU Needs to exam its own problems.”
While Henry is raising the question of potentially expelling police unions, Subbotin says that Henry has the perfect opportunity to show what accountability in the labor movement really looks like.
“There is a greater need for transparency from SEIU leadership,” says Subbotin. “SEIU needs to walk the talk.”