One courageous member of the powerful state-employee union, SEIU Local 1000, is challenging the way they do business, trying to make public the union’s financial records.
Miriam Noujaim, who works for the DMV, is fighting the state’s largest union with a petition filed with the state to get permission to review and copy the last two years of the union’s travel and expense records. Her request is primarily designed for her to peruse expense account statements and reimbursement requests for President Yvonne Walker and three underlings. If she gets her way, Noujaim will have her attorney, Mark Goudy, in the room while she studies the documents.
The lawsuit filed by Noujaim cites public records revealing that Local 1000 gathered $58 million in revenue in 2011 but used $3.25 million of the total for travel. The records show that in 2012, the union accrued $62 million in revenue and spent $5.21 million on travel. The lawsuit alleges, “Some of the travel expenditures have been to send (union) board members to China” as well as other trips not connected to work.
The union’s lawyer, Felix De La Torre, is fighting to keep the records private; he wrote Goudy on March 14, “(S)he intends to publish the union’s financial documents in the public domain to further her own personal publicity campaign.” Goudy fired back, “You could not be more wrong,” adding that Noujaim pays union dues and thus has the right to the information.
Noujaim’s epic struggle with the behemoth union started two years ago, when she filed a lawsuit to review and copy Local 1000 banking records. She won the right to look at the records, but the court also ruled that the union’s privacy would be violated if she copied the bank documents or was accompanied by a non-union member. Noujaim eyeballed the records and has insisted that the data showed union-funded junkets to Dallas as well as Pebble Beach.
This time around, Noujaim is limiting her request to view a smaller amount of information, and Goudy asserts that the information could be redacted so that some information would not have to go public.
Noujaim, who has said she would like to run for union office and make the union’s processes more transparent, has spent thousands of dollars to launch an anti-SEIU-leadership website and to hire people to picket SEIU events. In June, she organized an email campaign educating union members on how to reduce their dues.
Noujaim is hoping that she can glean the information before June 2015, when members will have the right to cut their payments to the union. SEIU will fight that issue tooth and nail. Goudy summed up, “This is David and Goliath, and we’re throwing pebbles.”