Saying the governance of the union’s local organization had slipped into “crisis,” the Service Employees International Union has stepped in to depose the union’s existing leadership and appointing trustees to lead the Chicago-based Local 73 to end “incessant infighting,” exemplified in public in legal actions pending in Chicago courtrooms.
On Aug. 3, the Washington, D.C.-based SEIU announced it had invoked provisions in the union’s constitution, allowing it to wrest control of Local 73 from its officers.
The national organization announced it had appointed Eliseo Medina, former SEIU secretary-treasurer, as trustee to oversee Local 73. Dian Palmer, president of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, and Lenore Friedlander, an officer from SEIU Local 32BJ, will serve as deputy trustees, the union said.
According to the Wednesday release, the action was provoked by a power struggle within Local 73 between Local 73 President Christine Boardman and Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Brandon, that had “reached a boiling point and seriously disrupted the operations and functioning of the Local, putting members’ interests at risk.”
“President Boardman and Secretary-Treasurer Brandon each challenge the basic legitimacy of the other’s authority to hold office or lead the Local, resulting in a debilitating dysfunction of the Local’s governance process as well as causing instability and confusion within the Local and its membership,” the union said in its release.
“Circumstances deteriorated so badly that the Local was unable to conduct the July 15, 2016 Executive Board meeting to carry out union business or hold a basic membership meeting scheduled for the next day. The Local is mired in internal charges, contested suspension of its secretary-treasurer and allegations that the local president can no longer serve due to a previous announcement of retirement,” SEIU said.
Boardman had been considered an ally of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, having publicly supported the city's attempts to rewrite public employee pension rules. Those rule changes were struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court as violations of the state constitution's pension protection clause.
The internal struggle has been played out in local courtrooms, as well, where Local 73 officials have each accused those on the other side of the struggle of defamation and leveling false accusations.
On July 1, Wayne Lindwall, assistant to the chief of staff of Local 73, sued Boardman in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging the Local 73 president had orchestrated a campaign to besmirch his name and reputation purportedly in response to his opposition to Boardman’s “proposed initiatives.” According to the lawsuit, Boardman then ordered union investigators to examine Lindwall’s private communications, without his consent, and shared them with other union members and officials.
Lindwall’s action came about five months after he had been sued by other Local 73 members and officials for allegedly maligning them in emails sent shortly after Boardman had temporarily removed him from his job last summer.
SEIU has been dismissed recently as a defendant in that action, but not before Lindwall opposed an attempt by Local 73 and the plaintiffs to settle the action, according to Lindwall’s attorney, Phil Turcy, of the Chicago firm of Turcy Chute.
While Turcy said the national union’s recent actions in Local 73 may impact the outcome of that case against Lindwall, they will not slow Lindwall’s lawsuit against Boardman. Turcy said other defendants from SEIU Local 73 may be added to the action in coming days, as well.