News Archives
Arts & Video
Back Links
About LaborNet

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."
www.cctextra.com/blogs/politicsblog/2007/04/seiu_officials_blasts_her _own.html
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 new members.
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 "national affiliate".
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 partners.

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.
online.wsj.com/article_email/SB118047895423717749-lMyQjAxMDE3ODIwOTQy Nzk4Wj.html

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.

contact LaborNet

copyright 2007 © LaborNet