JUST IN: Courtni Pugh, executive director of SEIU 99, steps down*
Vanessa Romo | June 24, 2014
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*UPDATED with response from Courti Pugh
The Executive Director of SEIU Local 99, LA Unified’s school workers union, announced today she is stepping down to take a job in Sacramento.
Cournti Pugh, who’s been at the helm of the local union for four years, announced her plans today on SEIU’s website and Facebook page.
Pugh said she is leaving “to immediately work to elect pro-worker legislators in the state senate.” But she did not clarify for whom or for what organization.
“I believe these efforts will once again gain the 2/3 majority in the state senate for incoming President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon, and build a stronger movement for good jobs, quality schools and a better future for Local 99 members and all working families,” she wrote.
Pugh added that she’s leaving with a “heavy heart.” She informed the Executive Board about her plans on Saturday.
Union members said they were surprised to learn Pugh is taking a new job while SEIU is in the midst of contract negotiations with LA Unified. The LA Unified board is taking up a final vote on the 2014-2015 budget later today.
SEIU and the district began bargaining sessions on June 12 and agreed to enter into a period of expedited negotiations by holding seven meetings before the end of the month. It’s unclear, what if any, impact this will have on the process.
In a statement today, Pugh said, “The strength of our union is in our membership. It is not about one person. Everyone working together collectively for the members’ best interest will allow for the best outcome of our contract negotiations with the district.”
According to Pugh’s farewell letter, Scott Washburn, SEIU’s Arizona State Director, was “enthusiastically supported” by the Executive Board to serve as Interim Executive Director effective July 19.
Pugh’s decision to leave and not announce her future plans left some SEIU members at a loss to explain her resignation at such a critical time for the union.
“Courtni Pugh’s leaving SEIU 99 has many member leaders questioning why,” said Kathryn Torres, former chairman of the local’s political action committee. “Could it be that SEIU 99 recently gave Kevin DeLeon money to his reelection and now she is leaving to work for him? It makes us members think that there are back room deals being made with members’ money, also known as dues. Or was it because $180,000 a year was not good enough for her?”
Pugh denied she made as much as $180,000.
Courtni Pugh submitted the following response to LA School Report. Here is an excerpt:
The quote by Ms. Kathryn Torres that LA School Report chose to publish is of particular concern. As the former Chair of SEIU Local 99’s Committee On Political Action, Ms. Torres is well aware of the strict legal and ethical standards that SEIU Local 99 adheres to in making political contributions.
She is also aware of the transparent process by which union members are involved in decisions related to direct candidate political contributions. Specifically, on contributions made in support of Senator Kevin De Leon, it must be noted that Ms. Torres was the Chair and attended the Committee On Political Action meeting several months ago where this contribution, along with multiple others– including 5 members of the State Senate — were recommended by the Committee.
Allegations of ‘back room deals’ or any type of unethical behavior made in her quote are disparaging and even slanderous to the members of Local 99, Senator Kevin De Leon, and my own character. I would hope that in the future LA School Report would refrain from publishing such inflammatory statements. Or, at the very least, seek a response to the allegations.