DEARBORN, Mich., April 13 The California NursesAssociation/National Nurses Organizing Committee tonight condemned a brutalassault by busloads of purple cloaked staff of the Service EmployeesInternational Union who smashed into a conference of union members Saturdaynight in Dearborn, Mi. and physically assaulted women and union members whostood in their path.
"I am deeply concerned about this heightened attack on women and nurses,directed by SEIU President Andrew Stern," said CNA/NNOC Executive DirectorRose Ann DeMoro, who was scheduled to speak about the campaign for genuinehealthcare reform at the banquet.
DeMoro cancelled her appearance at the event to coordinate support forCNA/NNOC leaders in California after Stern and SEIU began sending roving bandsof staff to the homes of CNA/NNOC RN board members in California Thursday andFriday, stalking and harassing them.
"There is an ugly pattern here of physical abuse and tactics ofintimidation that have no place in either our labor movement or a civilizedsociety," DeMoro said.
In Dearborn Saturday night, at least seven busloads, carrying up to 500SEIU staff in purple jackets and T-shirts drove up to the Hyatt Regency Hotelwhere the banquet was being hosted by the magazine Labor Notes culminating aweekend conference on topics including union democracy, health care reform,and encouraging the resurgent growth of labor.
Upon unloading from the buses, the hundreds of picket-sign wielding staffstormed the hotel and pushed their way through doors to break into theballroom where the event was being held.
While breaking in the building, the SEIU staff, now joined by SEIU staffinside the building, physically assaulted a group of union members andactivists at the door.
At least one woman, a retired auto worker and former business manager forLabor Notes, was injured and went to the hospital after being pushed to thefloor and hitting her head on a table.
As the SEIU staff broke into the hall, some three dozen CNA/NNOC nursesand leaders, there to attend the conference, including Malinda Markowitz, RN,a member of CNA/NNOC's Council of Presidents, who was scheduled to speak inDeMoro's place, were whisked out the back of the hall for their safety,leaving in vans. The atmosphere was so tense that hotel cooks tried to climbinto the vans to join them for fear of their own safety.
The evening assault at Labor Notes followed a day of disruption by SEIUstaff at workshops throughout the day at which various CNA/NNOC members wereon panels or participants.
"I am disgusted with the tactics of SEIU and their total disrespect forwhat was going on here -- members from multiple unions who were discussing anagenda to fight the increased corporate attacks on working people," saidMarkowitz. "It's clear their only agenda here was to disrupt and try to dividelabor and workers. Physical violence is absolutely unacceptable."
"I am absolutely appalled, to have a union coming in here with tons ofpeople ramming down doors. If they have these kind of resources, why aren'tthey using them to help people in the trenches rather than attacking nursesand other working people," said Danielle Magana, RN, an NNOC member from SanAntonio, Tex.
"If I were a nurse here I would not join such an aggressive union," saidPrudencia Mweemba, an RN from Zambia who is a PhD candidate at Kent State whowas attending the conference. "What they did today showed me they areirresponsible. I don't see how they can represent people with such anattitude."
"Had I not seen this with my own eyes I would not have believed it," saidKimberly Helmick, an Ohio RN. "SEIU did a big injustice to all the labormovement people who were here."
DeMoro noted that irony of the attack on a conference, in which uniondemocracy was a major topic, coinciding with growing efforts by Stern and S