Special To Labornet.org
SF SEIU790 Members and Leaders
Launch Decertification Drive
ON THE SAME WEEK of the first Change To Win (CTW) national organizing conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, dozens of members of SEIU Local 790 in San Francisco filed papers to decertify the Local as bargaining representative for the nearly 10,000 SEIU Local 790 members who work mostly for the city of San Francisco.
The newly formed organization which calls itself Public Employees for a Democratic Union announced that it was affiliating with Public Employees Union, (Local 1) which represents public employees in the East Bay. Their web site is at www.peu1.org.
The newly formed group declared that they wanted a union that was "truly member focused and responsive union environment at SEIU Local 790"."A large number of rank and file members, union activists and elected leaders have taken a bold step toward breaking away from 790, Public Employees for a Democratic Union has sought out and gained the support of Public Employees Union Local 1 in a campaign to hold elections to replace 790."
In their "Call For Change-Now" statement, they charge that they "have spent countless hours in the pursuit of a democratic, member-run organization that would not only provide quality contracts through collective bargaining but also active, thoughtful and timely representation for all."
"The resources (dues) paid by each member should be used to represent them when they need it most and should serve to better their lives. All members deserved to be treated with respect and dignity." Some dissident members have charged that their cars have been vandalized and also that they have been physically threatened by staff representatives.
SEIU Local 790 has also over the years spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on politicians and funding the A. Philip Randolph Institute and it's SEIU director James Bryant. Bryant and his organization received $50,000 in the past year and has been a close ally of former mayor Willie Brown. Many members are angry that this money and other funds were used in political slush funds for Democratic politicians at the same time that SF city employees have had a 7&1/2% pay cut the last three years. Over $250,000 was also used in a SEIU campaign rally in Berkeley that only involved 350 members of the local. The California state SEIU Council has also paid former Democratic state politician John Burton $50,000 as a consultant and after receiving the money he helped appoint an anti-labor representative to a state personnel board enraging some SEIU leaders.
This development comes on the heels of the plan by the SEIU international to merge nearly 25 locals of the SEIU in California into 4 regional locals with membership of over 100,000 members. This plan if taken forward would dissolve Local 790 with more than 30,000 members into even a bigger local with according to their members even less accountability.
A growing corruption crisis also is threatening the SEIU. In Los Angeles, Martin Ludlow who was Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor was charged with illegally taking $53,000 of union dues from SEIU Local 99 for his political campaign for assembly in 1999. He is facing potential federal and state conspiracy charges alleging that he approached leaders of SEIU Local 99 which represents school workers and asked them to hire people at the union who instead worked on his campaign. He has been forced to resign from his position with the LA labor federation and is negotiating a plea bargain deal that may ensnare other union officials including former leaders of SEIU Local 99. Ludlow was also Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff when he served as Assembly speaker. Villaraigosa who is now mayor of Los Angeles would also possibly be forced to testify if there is a trial of SEIU staffers from Local 99.
SEIU Locals throughout the state have passed rules requiring union staff to work for political candidates whether they agreed with these candidates or not. Some SEIU representatives have been punished for refusing to campaign for SEIU endorsed candidates. This is illegal under California law.
At the Change To Win Convention, SEIU President Andy Stern and Anna Burger who is also President of the newly organized Change To Win federation promised that they planned to organize millions of workers in the South and grow to include 1 million nurses by 2015.
Josie Mooney, the appointed Executive Director of SEIU 790 has indicated that she intends to resign and run for the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. She is also the President of the San Francisco Labor Council. Her husband Art Pulaski who is president of the California AFL-CIO and also attended the Change To Win Convention.
Public Workers Local 1 was also involved in supporting SEIU Local 87 janitors who decertified after their local was merged into statewide SEIU Local 1877 without a vote of the San Francisco membership. After two decertification votes, SEIU president Andy Stern agreed to allow the local to stay autonomous with their own officers and the membership voted to rejoin the SEIU.
In another sign of opposition to the forced merger plans of the International, the statewide Local 535 which represents social service workers, non-profit workers and school workers voted that any merger should be voted on separately by their local. There is some concern that the merger would be voted on in a statewide vote of all locals.
The SEIU national leadership has argued that the SEIU membership must increase their PAC political contributions from $3.00 a month to $5.00 a month.
SEIU represents over 600,000 workers in California and this decertification battle could be a major problem for the plans of the Stern leadership.
According to the SEIU leadership and the plans coming from their "Institute For Change" the SEIU can only meet their large "growth goals" by restructuring of locals "based on an overlay of the political trends, population growth, and SEIU growth goals."
Much of the anger in Local 790 is that large resources have also gone into recruiting new members in the Central Valley while failing to represent members in areas such as San Francisco which has a long history of union power.