Freedom Foundation

A tribute to SEIU 2015’s departing president, Laphonza Butler

Come January, Laphonza Butler will step down from her position as president of SEIU 2015. Her California healthcare union is the largest of its kind, cobbled together more than three years ago from various local unions across the state.

Butler’s union endured a rocky start, including internal conflict from those losing their members to hers. In a leaked memo, the leader of SEIU-UHW accused SEIU leadership of dishonesty, secrecy and of acting contrary to the best interest of the union members.

In his memo, Dave Regan demanded:

“Why is it that honest, open discussion on something as significant as reassigning 70,000 human beings, without talking to a single one of them is now so frightening that we need to adopt and enforce gag orders barring even internal union communications among affected members? Once an organization loses the ability to tell the truth internally, let alone with the public, the culture of such an organization has become so degraded that its ability to be effective and successful must be questioned. The top leadership of SEIU has now created such an organization.”

Regan added, “Values and integrity are supposed to be non-negotiable…”

Regan’s motives were questionable and his memo quite hypocritical according to the Huffington Post. Still, it sheds light on the strange happenings surrounding the creation of SEIU 2015.

By the summer of 2015, Butler’s union of more than 280,000 members from various locals across the state of California was fully operational. There was only one problem: Many of Butler’s new union members were not even aware they’d been waylaid.

Those who opted out of union membership with their former union were puzzled to notice that dues started coming out of their paychecks once again. When they called their previous union, they were told their “membership” had been transferred to SEIU 2015.

The fortunate few who managed to get someone from SEIU 2015 to answer the phone were informed they could not re-opt out of union membership until a one-year period had elapsed.

SEIU 2015 deducts a staggering 3 percent of the caregivers’ meager paychecks, which comes to more than $500 per year for many. It’s puzzling why SEIU 2015, a union representing in-home caregivers, would demand more dues than a union like SEIU 1000, which actually handles workplace issues and yet deducts only 1.5 percent of its members’ wages for doing so.

When a caregiver tries to opt out of union membership, they are sent a 500-word form letter rejecting their request. The letter rambles on about the benefits of union membership and buries instructions on how to “properly” opt out during the annual 15-day escape period.

SEIU 2015 does not send translated letters to caregivers’ who are more comfortable with another language. It comes as no surprise there is a Facebook support group for providers trying to opt out of SEIU 2015.

Some unwilling SEIU 2015 members could not opt out until the Freedom Foundation’s legal team wrote demand letters to the union on their behalf.

Perhaps Butler’s departure is in anticipation of the repeal of a federal regulation that could limit the union’s ability continue its coercive dues collection schemes. If repealed, caregiver unions such as SEIU 2015 would no longer be able to use the state payroll system to automatically deduct dues from caregivers’ wages. Incidentally, the president of Washington’s caregiver union recently resigned as well.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Butler noted,

“I have long said that in order for an organization to thrive, it requires new energy, ideas and leadership.  The time has come for new leadership to take Local 2015 to its next great victories.”

And who knows? Maybe she’s right.

One thing’s for sure: Whoever takes the job will have a hard time topping Laphonza Butler when it comes to lack of transparency, indifference and just plain gall.