Dian Palmer, president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin, wants one thing to be perfectly clear: Her union takes its ethical responsibilities very seriously. So it's just baffling to her how a forged signature was used to financially support the union's political arm.
Palmer conceded in a Aug. 11 letter to a lawyer for Milwaukee-based Supportive Homecare Options Inc., that somebody apparently signed up one of the company's employees to support the union's Committee on Political Education without that employee's knowledge or approval. But as far as who that was, well, the trail seems to have gone cold.
"We have spoken to our staff to determine if there were any circumstances in which they had signed cards for themselves. They state they have not, and we do not have evidence to the contrary," Palmer wrote.
The letter was in response to claims from two employees at Supportive Homecare Options that their signatures were forged for the union's COPE cards. The company and the union have been in negotiations over a contract since December.
The document was obtained and published Thursday by the Wisconsin Reporter, a watchdog news site started by the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.
Palmer said SEIU officials did talk to one of the employees alleging fraud. "Based on the information she provided, we are continuing to investigate to determine who is responsible for submitting this card."
Regarding the other card, the union said it had not been able to talk to the employee in question regarding his allegations.
But something fishy definitely did happen: The union said it was "unable to establish who submitted the COPE card at issue. We have determined that the individual identified in our database as securing this card did not submit it."
Sally Sprenger, owner of the company, was not entirely convinced by Palmer's response. She told the Wisconsin Reporter that the union's signature gatherers were paid by commission, so there ought to be a paper trail to follow. The company is seeking other documents from the union regarding employee signatures.
However, Palmer concludes her letter by saying that "[our] staff is trained in SEIU's ethical standards. Since these allegations have come to our attention, we have restated to those responsible for securing member authorizations that under no circumstances can they sign on behalf of the member."
She has even instituted a process to check on this. So everything should be fine now.