Carla Marinucci, Drew Joseph, Chronicle Political Writers
San Francisco Chronicle June 25, 2010 05:24 PM

Saturday, June 26, 2010

(06-25) 17:24 PDT OAKLAND — One of the state’s most powerful labor unions, saying it “won’t be pushed around” by Meg Whitman, unveiled a scathing ad campaign Friday seizing on an altercation between the former eBay CEO and one of her employees.

The California Nurses Association said the incident shows how disconnected the GOP gubernatorial nominee is from working people.

At a news conference outside its Oakland headquarters that was attended by 150 nurses in red scrubs, the union unveiled a new ad campaign – “Nurses Won’t Be Pushed Around” – and released posters showing a heavily jeweled hand adorned with rings that was meant to represent the billionaire candidate.

Union leaders said its new campaign makes direct references to a June 14 New York Times report of a 2007 incident in which Whitman, then the chief executive of the online auction firm, became angry and shoved a subordinate employee. The paper reported that Young Mi Kim, who now is a corporate communications director with eBay, received a $200,000 settlement in the case.

Whitman earlier this week called the incident “verbal” and the result of a “stressful” work situation. She dismissed it as a “fascination of the chattering class.” But Thursday she acknowledged to the Los Angeles Times that she had “physically escorted” Kim from an eBay conference room and said the Times’ story was correct.
Out of touch

At Friday’s news conference, leaders of the 80,000-member union, which has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown, said they were responding to the Whitman campaign’s attacks on the nurses’ union – and they intended to target the Republican as out of touch.

“We work in one of the most stressful work environments every day, and we maintain our professional composure,” said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse who is also the organization’s political director. “It’s really about her whole persona of feeling entitled.”

The nurses also announced a July 15 forum in Whitman’s hometown of Atherton. The union’s moves drew a sharp response from Whitman campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei, who said “the California Nurses Association is a group of one-party union activists that unequivocally support Jerry Brown. It is tightly controlled by partisan union bosses, and they are knowingly misrepresenting Meg’s positions on the issues and the opinions of California’s nurses.”

The events underscored an increasingly aggressive match between Whitman and the union, which has dogged Whitman’s campaign for months with satirical protests that include a fictional “Queen Meg” entourage bearing signs declaring she is “rich enough to rule.”

The Republican candidate has fought back, requesting a mailing list from the organization last week so Whitman could directly address its members. The union countered by inviting Whitman to address the nurses alongside Brown, or for Whitman to appear alone. She has declined the invitations.

Whitman’s team has reached union members by phone and sent thousands of nurses direct mail questioning the $293,000 salary of the union’s executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro, which it noted was five times the annual earnings of an average nurse in the United States.

Members of the union’s board, elected by the nurses, defended DeMoro on Friday, saying they approved her salary and that it is appropriate for her responsibilities.
Wall Street ties

“Queen Meg,” wearing a velvet crown and sash, arrived at the news conference in a black Cadillac Escalade accompanied by two security guards – one of them donning a sash reading “Goldman” and the other one “Sachs” – a reference to Whitman’s 15-month tenure on the Goldman Sachs board of directors and her close ties to the Wall Street bank.

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