MSEIU: Bad Ethics in Play at Healthcare Union?

The investigation is ongoing, but it would appear that bad ethics are in play at the Michigan’s Service Employee International Union (MSEIU). The 9,000-member union has revealed that the union’s president, Marge Robinson and the union’s secretary-treasurer, Shalaya Bryant have been removed from office while officials try to determine where missing funds have gone.

The MSEIU is not revealing the amount of money that has gone missing but that fact alone should be cause enough for worry. If it were a few hundred bucks here and there, it is doubtful the major investigation along with “removal” would have occurred. All the union is revealing is that the missing amount is significant.

What is further troubling is that Shalaya Bryant earns an annual salary plus benefits of amounting to $103,493 a year, while Ms. Robinson earns $209,889 annually in salary and benefits. Neither executive was exactly under-paid.

A Whistleblower

Behind the scenes at MSEIU, irregularities appear to have been brewing for quite a while. According to several reports, the “missing” treasury funds were discovered after an employee of the union came forward to report misuse of vacation policies and financial loans.

It is no secret that the union has lost about 80 percent of its membership in the last several years. Why did this occur? The State of Michigan ended the practice of the union automatically being allowed to take its dues from the healthcare workers paychecks. This practice came about because the state wanted to give union members the chance to self-determination, to see if they actually wanted to be a part of the union. Indications seem fairly obvious that they did not.

Between the irregularities that were noted by investigations into the whistleblowing accusations and the huge loss of membership, the alleged loss of funds was quickly exposed. The union most probably ran at a surplus during the times that the dues were automatically skimmed from the member’s paychecks. When times “got rough,” a house of cards might have been exposed.

Did the executives who were removed see an opportunity to commit fraud because no checks and balances were in place? Possibly so. If the president and the secretary-treasurer were unethical, they might have realized they had an opportunity to steal and no one would be the wiser. Did they have a need for ill-gotten funds? That we don’t know at this point. However, if there were irregularities noted by the union trustees in the form of unauthorized loans, or “pay to play” vacation benefits of some type, and the membership started to decline, they might have needed the money. What may have ultimately trapped the executives was a need to cover their losses.

Who was minding the union?

Healthcare workers are generally in jobs that are low in wages and incredibly tough to perform under highly stressful conditions. In short, they are often unseen angels. They trust their union to do the right thing, and they trust the union is always fighting for their welfare. In the case of the leadership of the MSEIU, the only people whose interests were being protected might have been the never-ending greed of the union officers.

How this occurs is when there is an atmosphere of no checks and balances and no ethical oversight or training. It is not that unions are inherently bad (I refuse to go down that well-worn road!), it is a common occurrence in any kind of organization where bad ethics are allowed to flourish in an atmosphere devoid of checks and balances. Some unions are very well run and have no problems, and they are invariably run in an atmosphere of ethical awareness.

My advice to every union, of any kind, is to have regularly scheduled ethical training for all trustees and union executives along with a well-implemented program of checks and balances. We must make certain the trust members place in the union is deserved.

MSEIU is emblematic of poor ethics in play, but should not be seen as an indictment of all unions.



Posted by Chuck Gallagher in ethics and tagged , , , , .

1 Responses to MSEIU: Bad Ethics in Play at Healthcare Union?

  1. constancebblog: November 9, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Obviously need your assistance. Hope you can fix it

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