Update: Bob Schoonover rescinded his ERIP application on Dec. 23, 2009.

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A number of members have asked me why I filed an application for ERIP.
I realize that as President of SEIU Local 721 I’m a public person. I accept that and all the responsibilities and consequences that go with that.
I’m also a very private person with a family and a personal life. I’ve tried to avoid conflict between the two pretty successfully until now. We have a lot of members who have much worse personal situations than I have to deal with, but I do feel a responsibility to my family. I take responsibility very seriously, whether it’s to our Union and its members, my job or my family.
My wife suffered a debilitating back injury about four years ago. We opted for surgery at our doctor’s advice. The surgery did relieve some of the discomfort but was almost immediately accompanied by new symptoms. It’s actually common after back surgery. It’s called Neuropathy. In simple terms, when she leans over the nerves in her toes don’t let her know when she’s gone as far as she can go. The result is that she falls frequently. That would be bad enough, but she has two bad hips that need surgery.
On the first day of ERIP sign-ups, November 2, I was excited about the tremendous response to the program. I did not consider filling out an application then. But later that same morning I tried to call my wife and there was no answer on either the home or the cell. When I finally reached her she told she had fallen once again, only this time it took her a couple of hours to recover enough to get up. I felt terrible that she was lying on the floor helpless for such a long time, and also realizing that this situation is probably only going to get worse. Also going through my mind, besides the guilt at not being there, was the reality that she can’t collect State Disability because that was exhausted a long time ago. It’s difficult for her to get permanent Disability until after hip surgery. Translation: my personal finances, although pretty good, don’t allow me to bring someone in to assist her at this time.
Faced with these formidable challenges I thought it only responsible of me to at least file for ERIP to cover my bases in terms of taking care of my family. It’s just about having options, and this was not something I had considered previously–when members asked me if I would take ERIP and I said no.
I’ve had great difficulty talking about this situation. I’m not looking for sympathy, and I firmly believe we should hold all of our leaders accountable, myself included. It’s unfortunate that something in my personal life has impacted my public life, but it has. That’s the only reason that I’m going public with this personal situation.
In closing, I want to make it crystal clear that I’m 100% committed to the members and this union and don’t intend to retire. But I find I must preserve that option in case it’s absolutely necessary. Filling out the application only qualifies me. It does not obligate me to leave.
If I were to make that decision today I would stay, and it’s been that way every day since I filled out the application! If it changes, I will let you know.
In solidarity,



Bob Schoonover
President, SEIU Local 721
Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic, City of Los Angeles