Calling To China, Open Rupture With Stern Breaks Out In California SEIU
By Steve Zeltzer
A GROWING ANGER AND NOW open rupture is developing in one of the power
centers within the Andy Stern's 1.8 million member Service Employees
International Union SEIU.
Stern who has made over 6 trips to China to learn how he can work with
the Chinese unions and government and has dozens of international
representatives now scattered around the world organizing a "global
union" is now caught up in a bitter battle within his own empire.
The most recent episode is the recent mergers of hundreds of thousands
of members into new regional locals in California. Stern appointed new
officers on March 1, 2007 to lead the locals which merged local with
tens of thousands of members. In Northern California SEIU 790 and 20
other locals now became Local 1021. The local will not have elections
for 18 months and Stern's agents sought to literally wipe out the
unionized agents some who had worked for the union for over 20 years.
His new contract for the agents including eliminating seniority of the
union staff forcing all to go on a one year probation, ordering the
staff to work 60 to 70 hours a week with no overtime and based on union
campaigns. The newly appointed officers are also reduced vacations and
is attempting to eliminate defined pensions placing union staff into 401
K stock plans.
If this was not enough, they demanded that sign letters agreeing to
these conditions as a basis to keep their jobs. At a meeting of the
newly organizing SEIU 1021 advisory committee, the CWA organize staff
represented by CWA Local 9404 leafleted the meeting and demanding that
they wanted "the same dignity and respect that your staff demands from
you from your employers."
One elected union officer Sue Angeli, the retiring president of BART's
SEIU professional chapter, is furious with her union. "What's not widely
known, Angeli said, is that the union's new management team has taken a
page right out of the books of the employers the union battles."
"It's hypocritical," said Angeli, who is also a member of the Pleasant
Hill City Council. "How can this organization preach fair treatment of
employees and promote the representation of workers and then turn around
and screw its own people? I'm ashamed to say that I am a member of SEIU."
The plan is merging 35 locals into four and in the process of course
there is even less checks and balances, transparency and local control
by the membership of the newly affected massive locals. It is also
angering thousands of members who have newly hired staff members who do
not know their contracts and many are recent college graduates who are
not from the industries they are representing workers in. This "cleaning
house" of the old staff was done precisely to bring in people who would
only have loyalty to their new bosses.
In former Local 535 senior staff organizer and labor radio producer Wren
Bradley was also fired along with 11 others in the California Central
Valley area and when she went back to her public job as a union members
she was forbidden from becoming a union steward.
In Southern California senior staff member Paul Krehbiel of SEIU 660 was
unceremoniously fired after having working to organize and build up the
strength of the local over many years. He had prepared articles on how
to build a shop stewards council which had been used in the Local and
also published in the labor magazine Labor Notes. Krehbiel like Bradley
and other more independent and militant union staffers were seen by the
new Stern team as a potential political threat to the new corporate type
vision of the remodeled SEIU.
This merger plan has also been challenged by members of Los Angeles city
rank and file members of former Local 347 which was merged into Local
721. These members have charged that the International illegally
prevented them from fighting the merger by banning the use of union
money to oppose the merger plan yet ordering union staff to lobby and
push for the mergers under threat of being fired if they did not comply.
Andy Stern in a letter to them dated June 11 of 2006, the SEIU
prohibited the staff of Local 347 from opposing or organizing an
opposition. It stated "no union funds, resources or staff may be used to
oppose, interfere or undermine in any way the IEBšs determination in
this matter". Their group "Fight for 347" have challenged this with the
Employee Relations Ordinance that this was an illegal interference in
the union affairs of the local and also that money was illegally
transferred to the new local without proper authorization.
This apparently slipshod merger has also led to some employers such as
Stanford University Hospital refusing to recognize the newly formed
locals since their contracts are with the old locals. Apparently the
Stern administration did not seriously confront the affect of the
mergers as far as the legal change in relationships. The merger
committee in California was mainly concerned with who would get control
of which members and not how the locals would be able to represent these
The SEIU also routinely also orders staff to campaign for political
candidates in direct violation of California labor law which protects
workers from being ordered to campaign for politicians that they might
oppose. In San Francisco at SEIU Local 790 former Executive Director
Josie Mooney fired Criss Ramero for refusing to campaign for former
mayor Willie Brown and instead supporting Tom Ammiano.
The growing crisis has also spread to SEIU Local 1000 which represents
90,000 California state workers. The union administration pushed forward
a dues increase demanded by the International without a vote of the rank
and file which has led to a growing split and division within the state
wide union. Many long time union activists were blindsided when many
members angrily blamed them for imposing a dues increase without their vote.
The California SEIU like Stern is also refusing to support the fight for
single payer in California. Instead, state SEIU Legislative Director
Allen Davenport has sought to set up labor-management self insured
workers comp carve-out groups to encourage bosses to join the SEIU to
cut their workers comp costs. The statewide council representing over
600,000 members in California has also refused to mobilized injured SEIU
members to fight against the deregulation of workers compensation.
Davenport who also sits on California Commission on Health and Safety
and Workers Compensation told this reporter that is was "too hard" to
contact all the SEIU's 600,000 members to let them know about the crisis
in workers compensation. Instead he is busy setting up carve outs to
encourage employers to sign contracts with the SEIU.
The biggest and most serious threat however to the Stern administration
is the open challenge to his methods by SEIU UHW which represents over
140,000 California healthcare workers at Kaiser and other healthcare
operations. This local itself is a result of the merger of Local 399 in
Los Angeles with Local 250 in the Northern California. It represents the
largest group of unionized healthcare workers in the state.
In a letter written on May 29, 2007 and signed by president Sal Rosselli
and all the leading officers of the local, the officers declare that
their rights to an effectively advocate for quality care, union
democracy and full collective bargaining rights are threatened by the
Some in the national SEIU are negotiating an agreement with the nursing
home employers-in California and nationally and have repeatedly
excluded UHW nursing home members and elected representatives from the
process. These agreements could restrict our nursing home members' voice
on the job and be implemented without affected members even having the
right to vote.
In California, the statewide SEIU Council has also sought to unite with
convalescent owners to block legislation protecting patients rights if
the owners agreed to long term contracts with SEIU. In the State of
Washington the SEIU sought to push for a $60 million dollars increase in
state funding for convalescent homes in return for an agreement that the
bosses would lock into long term union contract that would preent the
workers from having any control on the job.
At the last convention of the SEIU in fact, Stern blocked a vote on a
resolution that would have allowed the rank and file members of the
union from electing representative on regional and industrial bargaining
councils that would negotiate with major employers throughout the
country. This tactic was not opposed by UHW and now it is hitting home
with the International seeking to force contracts down the throats of
workers without any representation of the rank and file.
The idea of labor management partnerships are of course not new. The
formation of the AFL-CIO in the 50's was based on building a new
pro-corporate business union labor management partnership that would
exclude those militant unionists and union tactics that built the unions
in the 1930's and 1940's.
In the SEIU in fact, it was John Sweeney, now president of the AFL-CIO
who urged then SEIU 250 president Sal Roselli to support a labor
management partnership with Kaiser which still exists today. One worker
Kaiser healthcare medical transcriptionist and shop steward Carol Criss
reported at a recent meeting that the Kaiser contract from 2005 is still
not available for shop stewards and the union is now saying that Kaiser
has not really agreed to the contract. This labor management partnership
at Kaiser has also led to stewards being fired for filing grievances and
stewards being pressured to " balance their role as outspoken advocates
for their co-workers with that of trusted colleagues to their management
These kinds of labor management alliances have also broadened out to
Republicans and companies like Wal-Mart.
This alliance with Schwartzenegger and Wal-Mart has also created an open
bitter split in Stern's newly formed Change To Win CTW grouping when
Joseph T. Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers
union attacked Stern for linking up with Wal-Mart.``It's not appropriate
to take the stage with a company that refuses to remedy its mistreatment
of workers,'' Hansen said in a prepared statement. The union he
represents funds the WakeUpWalMart campaign, which challenged the
company to immediately provide health care to all of its uninsured
employees and their families.
In the middle of last year's election cycle Stern also came to
California and joined Governor Schwartzenegger in his healthcare
conference. Although many of the SEIU locals in California are backing
single payer, Stern told the governor that he supported his plan which
kept the insurance companies in power in the healthcare industry. He
also did this when the SEIU was formally backing Phil Angelides.
Stern's political support for alliances with the even non-union bosses
has made him a darling of the corporate media with accolades from
Business Week and even the Wall Street Journal which calls him a far
sighted leader. His latest plan is to push for continued tax breaks for
private equity funds if they will negotiate contracts with SEIU locals
throughout the country.
Stern when he came to California in a recent tour of his new book "A
Country That Works: Getting America Back on Track" declared on radio
station KALW that the "class struggle is an old idea from Europe" and
does not have any relevance to workers in the US. This despite the fact
that Warren Buffet, one of the leading billionaires has declared that
there is a "class war" and his side is winning it.
At a past Transportation workers conference in California, UK RMT
president Bob Crow pointed out that Stern's "organizing" in Europe
included his hiring of an alleged crook who misappropriated money from
another unions and was then hired on by Stern to "organize" in Europe.
This new labor management partnership deals which is the main thrust of
the Stern game plan of course also means the total elimination of any
democratic accountability and during the last SEIU convention in San
Francisco, Stern also prevented a resolution to be put on the convention
floor that would have allowed a rank and file membership vote on the top
officers of the International. Convention delegate members of SEIU 415
in Santa Cruz were furious when Stern's agents at the convention refused
to allow their resolution to come to the convention floor.
The battle now however is much bigger. Stern has threatened to destroy
the power of UHW and if necessary to break it up and hand it over to
other locals. Thousands of homecare workers have been turned over to
Stern's hand picked man Tyrone Freeman, President of SEIU 434B which now
represents the majority of home care workers in California because of
the recent mergers. As a loyal soldier, he has gone along with Sternšs
plans and Stern is seeking to use him against Sal Rosselli, president of
SEIU UHW as a pressure point to Sal Rosselli to get with the program or
having your units being unilaterally removed by the International and
potentially being put in trusteeship.
The struggle for democracy and membership rights in the SEIU however now
threatens to expand to other locals throughout the International and
this issue may hit the floor at the upcoming national convention of the
SEIU which will be held in Puerto Rico next year.
It is fitting that the Stern administration plans to have their
convention in Puerto Rico since he was personally sent to Puerto Rico by
then president John Sweeney to cut a deal with the Democratic governor
that in return for support by the SEIU for privatizing the healthcare
system, he would push the healthcare workers in Puerto Rico into the
SEIU. Apparently this "labor imperialism" is Andy Stern's new global
union agenda and it may meet stiff resistance when the members hit the
island and US colony of Puerto Rico.