Sexual harassment at the SEIU? Say it isn't so!

So we have sexual harassment investigations in Hollywood, in the media and even in Congress. But surely they don’t have such foul behavior taking place at the labor unions, do they? Those are the homes of equality, fair treatment and protection for all. Unfortunately, I’m afraid even they aren’t free of the scourge of men (almost exclusively) using their position of authority to take advantage of women (most of the time). One of the largest of the unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has been hit with no less than five such claims.

The most recent one to crop up is featured at Politico this week and it started in Boston. The even more disturbing aspect of the story is that the man who was fired there for inappropriate conduct managed to go on to find work at two other SEIU offices.

The Service Employees International Union faced questions last week over how a former staffer fired for inappropriate workplace conduct at a Boston local found work at two other SEIU locals in California. The labor website Payday Report reported last week that Pedro Malave, a former assistant director at 32BJ SEIU District 615, was fired in 2014 after allegations of sexual assault. Malave then found work at two California locals, SEIU-UHW and SEIU-USWW. The locals dismissed Malave after Payday Report inquired about the allegations last week.

“SEIU USWW has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or sexual violence, and had we had prior knowledge of any misconduct or harassment allegations against Mr. Malave, we would never have hired him,” USWW spokesperson Stephen Boardman said in a written statement. The union said it was unaware of the allegations until last week. SEIU locals, which are separately incorporated, each have their own human resources departments, and no centralized system exists to share records, a union official told Morning Shift. Malave could not be reached for comment.

So that brings to five the number of SEIU executives and workers who have been accused in recent weeks. Their Executive Vice President had to resign in October, along with three leaders of their Fight for 15 organization in Chicago and Detroit.

The big question with the Malave accusation (well… on top of the actual problem of him assaulting women) is how he wound up getting hired again at other offices after being found out and dismissed in Boston. The SEIU is saying that each branch is an independent unit with their own hiring processes and HR departments. That may be so, but don’t they check references and vet the people applying to work for them? I suppose if Malave fudged his resume and didn’t include the work at the Boston office (which would make total sense) he might have slipped through the cracks, but they clearly weren’t verifying his work history that closely.

On a more general level, SEIU should serve as a reminder of something we’ve been discussing here for the past few weeks. We’re not talking about famous people, either in music, film, television or even politics. This is a labor union and the alleged perpetrators are drones (even the higher level ones) who the average person has never even heard of. But they hold power over those who work for them and the criminally inclined can use that power to take advantage of women.

If it’s happening in the local and regional offices of labor unions then it’s no doubt going on in hospitals, post offices, bowling alleys and warehouses around the country. The problem is, none of those perpetrators are famous enough to draw the attention of the press and none of the victims are well enough known to attract the tabloids. Are those victims going to be heard, believed and see their tormentors punished?