Lack of Transparency, Threat of Arrests Continue to Cloud SEIU Unionization Scheme

STATEMENT: November 21, 2013

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity calls on the Chafee Administration to provide transparency during the negotiating process with the 540 newly unionized childcare providers, as well as to hold them and SEIU to their word.
Amid reports that the SEIU has already requested that secret negotiations begin with the Administration, the Center points out, that immediately following the election to accept SEIU representation, union officials and new union members repeatedly told the public that unionization was about professional development and not about pay and benefit increases. The Center, on behalf of taxpayers who would pay for any negotiated benefits, urges the Administration to provide sunlight on the process, in order to demonstrate that the substance of the negotiations is, indeed, restricted to professional development matters only. Administration officials have already indicated that they are not inclined to allow any public scrutiny until after the negotiations are completed.
“After the most secretive and biased election process we have ever witnessed, it is unacceptable to taxpayers that these negotiations will take place in the shadows,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The report our Center issued in September, Taxpayers Beware, discussed the potential costs associated with yet more union benefits, which our already stressed budget cannot responsibly absorb”.
In a related matter, as reported in The Ocean State Current, the State Police admitted that there would have been no justification to arrest taxpayer advocates for merely watching the proceedings of the child-care provider unionization election conducted by the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB), which violated its own guidelines in directing law enforcement officers to forcibly keep observers away. A number of citizen volunteers were threatened with arrest if they approached the election venues.”The entire SEIU unionization election scheme, orchestrated by the SLRB, reeks of insider cronyism, secrecy, and, now we know, unjustified heavy-handed tactics,” concluded Stenhouse.

STATEMENT: October 31, 2013

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity questions the results of the election results announced today by the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) regarding the unionization of home childcare providers.
Many Rhode Islanders believe that this entire unionization and election scheme was rigged from the outset. With multiple allegations of fraud with similar votes in other states, the utter lack of transparency and degree of secrecy by the State Labor Relations Board provides zero assurance that a free and fair election was conducted. The disdain towards taxpayers and the public, the armed security, the threat of arrest of citizens, and the fact that union members were brought in to work the polls …  only perpetuate these concerns.
The alleged vote tally of 72% of all eligible voters in favor of unionization is at significant odds with results from many other states, and does not square with the counts that our volunteers reported from the poll venues.
It is in the interest of the unions to create the perception that overwhelming support was achieved so that they can claim they have a mandate to go after the next group they wish to unionize.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 27, 2013 

Center Condemns Heavy Handed Tactics and Secrecy of SEIU Unionization Election

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity condemns the heavy handed tactics that unnecessarily led to arrest threats against civilians merely attempting to observe the election to unionize home childcare providers on Saturday in Newport, Kingston, and Lincoln. The Center challenges the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB), the SEIU, and the State Police to follow existing rules and regulations.

“Imagine this: The insiders who colluded to bring this SEIU unionization scheme to a vote – the SLRB, the SEIU, and the State of Rhode Island – are allowed full access as officials of the election; yet the taxpayer, who will bear the cost of the election and the cost of unionization are not allowed anywhere near the polling place, under threat of arrest”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “What are they so afraid of and why has this supposedly democratic process been kept so secret? Something is very wrong here.”

Volunteers organized by the Center who attempted to observe the proceedings were stopped by state troopers and presented with a copy of the SLRB’s General Rules and Regulations (Title 28, Labor and Labor Relations, Chapter 28-7 of the Labor Relations Act, Section 8.02.7 – Prohibited Election Conduct) that prohibits “electioneering” within 200 feet of the polling place or who may “interfere” with the election process.

“Absolutely no electioneering took place; no protests; no signs; no materials passed out; and no volunteer, in any way, attempted to interfere with the election process, yet they were threatened with arrest for just being in the vicinity. Meanwhile union supporters were allowed to wear their purple SEIU scarves all the way inside,” continued Stenhouse. “Since when does the State Police take orders from the SLRB?”

The Center calls upon the SLRB and the State Police to heed the law and allow peaceful civilian observation, specifically calling upon:

  • the SLRB and its administrator, Robyn Golden, to retract its self-serving, broad interpretation of its own rules and regulations
  • the SLRB to provide a full accounting of the costs of the election, and the names of the individuals it authorized to serve as “official observers”
  • the State Police to: a) conduct its own, independent interpretation of the regulations and instruct its troopers to act accordingly; namely taking action only if improper electioneering or interference takes place, and; b) to specify under what authority it can be deputized by the SLRB


ORIGINAL STATEMENT:  October 27, 2013 

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity openly questions the transparency of the scheme that could have significant consequence for taxpayers; namely the process to unionize home childcare providers, which culminates with an election in the next week about whether home child care providers will accept exclusive representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The Center challenges the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) and the SEIU to provide additional information to the public.

UnionfreelogoThe SLRB has refused to release information about the card signature process; has refused to consider multiple petitions from our Center; and refuses to provide any information to indicate that the upcoming voting process will be fair, transparent, or fraud-free with regard to voter validation, intimidation, and public access.

There is reason to be wary, as there have been allegations of SEIU fraud and intimidation tactics over similar schemes in other states (see SEIU California intimidation video), yet there are no publicly known safeguards in place here in Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, multiple providers have privately confided with the Center that SEIU representatives have lied to them when knocking on their doors to promote unionization.

Other providers, not eligible to vote, because they do not currently serve families on public assistance, feel discriminated against and have questioned the fairness of an election where their voice has been purposely suppressed. If they do accept such families in the future, these providers will be forced to pay dues or fees without ever having had the opportunity to vote on an issue that could significantly affect their business.

“There is real fear and frustration out there. Despite repeated requests from our Center, the silence from the SLRB has been deafening. If the SEIU and the SLRB are so convinced that they are conducting a fair process, why are they afraid of a little sunlight”, inquired Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “There has been no information about how the SLRB plans to ensure that voters will not be intimidated or deprived of free-choice in this election. We challenge them to publicly discuss these matters in order to ensure taxpayers and providers that an open and honest election will take place”.

Most egregiously, the SLRB has refused to acknowledge that recent U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Appeals Court actions, which raise the distinct possibility that similar schemes may be unconstitutional, should have any bearing on its plans to forge ahead with a vote, despite the legal and financial morass the election could create.

The secrecy began from the outset when the SEIU claimed it collected signed cards from 80% of the providers, allegedly indicating that they were in favor of unionization, and submitted those cards to the SLRB in order to begin the election process. Neither the cards themselves, their content, nor the names of the providers who the SEIU claims to have signed them, were provided to our Center or to the public, despite a specific request to the SLRB. Neither was any information provided about the validation process of the signatures, instead choosing to hide behind its own, self-serving rules designed to ensure secrecy. In an informal survey, when our Center called dozens of providers, not a single provider indicated that they signed a card. Proof of fraud? No. Statistically curious? Yes.

Next, our Center formally petitioned the SLRB three times to amend the election process to conform with precedents in other states and very recent federal court actions, specifically requesting:

  • a ballot language change that more accurately reflected the decision providers must make, as has been worded on other state ballots;
  • an open legal response and analysis to a September federal appeals court ruling blocking an almost identical election in Minnesota;
  • to postpone the election until after the U.S. Supreme Court, in October, agreed to hear an Illinois case that may provide legal precedent to the RI process

In all three cases, the petitions were denied, with the SLRB again hiding behind a supposed technicality that our Center, representing the taxpayer, had no standing to make such petitions. However, the SLRB cited no statute to validate this claim.

Finally, with regard to the SLRB’s “Notice of Election” sent to eligible providers, after repeated requests, now 12 days old, the SLRB has refused to respond in any way to a number of questions the Center posed about the election venues. The questions, specifically inquired about:

  • What the SLRB considers as “electioneering?
  • Voter validation process at the polls?
  • How the Center or the taxpayer can become an “authorized observer” at the polls? The state and the SEIU have already been designated as such.
  • Public and media access guidelines at the polling locations?

Since 2004, when the SLRB unilaterally attempted to designate independent child home care providers as state employees for the purpose of unionization, only to be struck down in 2005 in a RI Superior Court ruling, there can be no question that the SLRB and the SEIU are working closely together to critical elements of this unionization process hidden from public scrutiny.

Rhode Islanders should expect more from its government. Our Center demands transparency of this blatant insider scheme.

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