As First Vice-President of the State Employees Association’s Board of Directors, I want to remove confusion surrounding issues involving the NH Liquor Commission generated by recent news stories, social media posts and email chains initiated by a handful of misinformed individuals.
Below are the four main issues that I would like to clarify:
- President Gulla’s actions related to the February visit to the Keene liquor store were ratified by the Board on June 21, 2018 in an Emergency Board meeting. His decision to accompany Councilor Volinsky resulted from a chapter meeting where several liquor state employees volunteered to have the large volume cash transactions at their respective stores observed.
The Board wants to send a strong message to the State: after decades of ignoring liquor employees’ safety pleas, their pleas won’t be ignored anymore. Because the Commission has a history of firing employees who act as whistleblowers, the SEA understands that many current members do not want to publicly denounce the NHLC and risk their livelihood. Regardless, we’ve received many messages of support, asking us to keep fighting. And we will.
- The SEA has never and will never release anything to the media or public that would place employees in danger.
Attempts have been made to convince members that we released confidential information to the media, such as security footage and sensitive information about cash deposits. This is false. We have no control over stores’ video footage, never released it and the information about bank deposits have long been known and acknowledged publicly.
- President Gulla has no personal vendetta and his involvement is not a conflict of interest.
President Gulla rose through the ranks from clerk to manager at NH liquor stores during the course of his nearly 20-year career. He is still a state liquor employee and a member while he serves as president. Based on Robert’s Rules of Order, the Board cannot vote to exclude a member from the process. Recently, a member improperly released confidential information about confidential personnel matters relating to President Gulla’s employment. Because members must be able to trust that confidential personnel information will always be held in confidence, the Board has directed our legal team to take appropriate action to address the inappropriate disclosure of confidential information. The Board holds their ethical and fiduciary responsibility in high regard.
- We are in this together. The Board has an open door policy with members. You can express your views via emails, letters, in person, or by requesting to be placed on the agenda during the monthly board meetings.
As the SEA publicly expressed in the June 20 article in the Union Leader, “we respect an individual’s right to their opinion.” Members are welcomed and encouraged to express opposing viewpoints. We are a democratic organization and democracy means a plurality of voices and finding unity within that diversity. The SEA also makes regular attempts to connect with members. For example, in an outreach effort to a handful of chapter 54 members he met at the June Council meeting, President Gulla sent a notecard and copies of books that had been distributed at last year’s Convention. This simple gesture was later twisted to cast President Gulla’s act as an attempt to bribe members with gifts. We will not tolerate the intentional spread of lies and half-truths aimed at breaking down the solidarity the SEA has built for the past several decades.
The SEA has long known that the Commission bullies and intimidates its employees into silence, else they be fired. Now the Commission is using the same tactics against the SEA. These tactics include barring the SEA from visiting retail stores, cancelling the July 26 Labor-Management Committee and engaging in blatant union-busting communication with the members and general public. At a time when member concerns are at an all time high, we cannot find a plausible reason to explain why liquor officials would choose to cancel any opportunities for dialogue. This fight will be long but we are ready to use all legal avenues to stomp out the intimidation culture that is pervasive at the NHLC.
On June 21, 2018, the Board passed four motions: to authorize a show of solidarity in support of NH State Liquor Store employees; to ratify President Gulla’s actions at the Keene liquor store; to use necessary legal recourse to remedy the improper disclosure of confidential information; and to communicate with our elected officials and their appointees to address employee safety at the liquor stores.
Oftentimes when one commits to doing what is right, they will face opposition. This opposition has reaffirmed our commitment to continue to ensure employee safety and push for policy changes and training aligned with IRS regulations. The messages of support we have received from state employees across agencies has furthered strengthened our resolve to this commitment.
We’re all part of one union. We will replace confusion with clarity, not just internally but with the NHSLC as well.
First Vice President Ken Roos
SEA/SEIU Local 1984
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