Posts Tagged ‘UHW’

The Truth About SEIU’s 21st Century Company Unionism – A View from the Inside

January 25, 2009

A friend of mine who is also a long time trade unionist drew my attention to a series of posts on Talking Union, the labor blog of the Democratic Socialists of America, to which we both belong.

Leaders of the rebel SEIU union local United Health Care Workers West – a good and militant democratic union – have been debating with fake-leftist posers who are cronies of the corrupt Andy Stern clique that runs the international SEIU. The dueling posts can be found here:

http://talkingunion.wordpress.com/

The two fake leftists responding from the Stern side are Eliseo Medina, who is unfortunately is an honorary chair of DSA, and Gerry Hudson. The honest trade unionist Paul Kumar (who also has a history with DSA) responds from the UHW side.

The debates were prompted by the Stern gang’s moves to put the rebels under trusteeship (with Stern puppet Ray Marshall pretending to offer a fair and balanced opinion after being put in place as the judge by Andy Stern).

DSA leader Paul Garver has also written some posts on the issues, attempting to take a mediating position between both sides.

My friend, Andy English, did a 2 and a half year stint working for the SEIU purple plague and he described his sojourn with the Stern cult in horrifying terms.

I left another union to work for SEIU international, in the South-Southwest region over which Medina presides. I was shocked and disillusioned by what I discovered.

What I discovered is an organization that has institutionalized (and centralized) hypocrisy, cynicism and dishonesty to a degree unprededented in the American labor movement. The closest comparison I can think of is to the old stalinist ruling parties of the Soviet bloc. And SEIU is run on the same “principle” of “democratic centralism.” The slightest deviation from the “party line” of Andy Stern leads to retaliation. There is an atmosphere throughout the organization that is intolerant of dissent, and a culture of fear and intimidation among the frontline staff. The personality cult of Stern is pervasive (and supplemented in the south-southwest region by the lesser personality cult of Medina).

SEIU poses to outsiders as the most progressive left-wing union in the USA. Internally what they tell staff is much different.

First of all, they dismiss all other unions as irrelevant, bad, out-dated, stuck in the past, and just horrible. They tell staff that nothing can be learned from other unions, that only Andy Stern and the leadership around him knows what to do. This includes the other Change to Win unions. They make fun especially of UFCW and the Teamsters.

They tell SEIU staff that “we don’t do representation”, that workers’ grievances are unimportant, that “disgruntled” workers with grievances are probably guilty of something and the union should “add value” by helping the boss get rid of them. They accuse other unions of being “needlessly adversarial” and “against partnership”. Shop floor stewards are not needed and can be replaced with call centers. We don’t want militant workers in the leadership, we want “happy, shiny” workers who love their bosses to be the leaders. (The first time I heard this from my SEIU manager I was completely nauseated, as someone who’s actually worked in blue collar jobs. Only an obnoxious yuppie could even think this, much less utter these words.)

I was on one public sector campaign where we were directed to submit the text of a leaflet to the employer for his approval before we could print it, and not to agitate the workers over economic issues like pay and health insurance that they cared about, but to only talk about “partnership”. Behind the scenes they continued to beg the elected officials for recognition, but because of their weak-kneed brown-nosing approach, the organizing committee was tiny, and the employer just ignored the begging.

I saw SEIU continually seek to cut secret backroom deals with employers behind the backs of workers.

I saw them spin and exaggerate minor victories to the point of absurdity and try to steal credit for lobbying victories of other unions. I saw them blatantly lie to the press about membership figures.

I was in one meeting where they talked about positioning themselves to curry favor with local business leaders and the chamber of commerce by deliberately putting forward the most conservative state health care “reform” plan, and where they disparaged singlepayer advocates as “silly leftists.”

While Medina has an admirable history, its clear that long ago he sold his soul to Andy Stern. The majority of managers I met in SEIU international never worked a blue collar job or any kind of working class job, and had no interest in listening to workers (polls and focus groups were all they cared about). They were arrogant, conceited, obnoxious, convinced they were right about everything, and that they were the “cool kids” that everyone else had to bow down to. Anyone with experience in another union, and with working class experience outside of SEIU was considered suspect, and if they showed the slightest hesitation about drinking the purple kool-aid, they were marked for elimination. SEIU prefers to hire and promote people who know nothing about unionism besides the SEIU line and will drink the kool-aid because they don’t know any better.

So if anyone reading this is thinking about going to work for SEIU international, be prepared to conform and sell your soul too or they will find a way to get rid of you.

I am sure there are good locals of SEIU that still abide the traditional principles of trade unionism. But the locals in Colorado were completely under the thumb of the international union. And they would hold membership meetings once every 2 or 3 years. They are completely staff-driven, not worker-driven. The workers are only called upon to ratify what the “cool kids” have already decided. Everything is staged, scripted and faked.

With regard to Medina’s role in DSA – as a DSA member I think he should be disqualified from serving as an honorary chair or any other kind of officer in a democratic socialist organization. To me a union is not just an institution – the union is the unity of the workers in the shop, be it a factory, a hospital, a nursing home or whatever. UHW members are clearly united behind their leadership. By attacking UHW to crush dissent within the organization, SEIU international is attacking the workers and engaging in union-busting. By backing this union-busting as the top leader of SEIU in California, Medina is scabbing on the working class movement. His loyalty is to Stern, not to the working class.

If this is 21st century unionism, then leave me back in the 20th century when unions acted like unions. If old-fashioned militance was good enough for Walter Reuther, Harry Bridges, the original Jimmy Hoffa and Jerry Wurf, then it is good enough for me. Eliseo Medina, Gerry Hudson, Anna Burger and Andy Stern aren’t worthy of wiping the feet of those great unionists.

Back after long break

January 25, 2009

I started this blog last month, and then my home internet went down for a week, I was traveling for the holidays, and I’ve been extremely busy with work since I got back. So that’s why posting abruptly halted. I am going to try to get back into the routine of blogging, so bear with me.

Rather than try to be a news and analysis type of blog, I may take a more conversational approach, and just post current thoughts and musings. Hopefully this may be of interest to some folks. If not, then its just another random blog out of millions on the internet, which is fine with me. The next Billmon I’m not. (And I wish Billmon would go back to regular blogging, especially about the economy. That guy is sharp! Steve Gilliard was my 2nd favorite blogger and he’s gone now. The internet is just not as fun without them.)

So in no particular order – here’s some thoughts.

Good riddance to George Bush! Not an original thought, of course. In fact, it seems to be the mainstream concensus these days. Now we can finally have some progressive discourse in the national debate, since conservatism is completely discredited. Which comes at the cost of a worldwide economic meltdown. Hey maybe that Karl Marx guy was right about some things – like capitalism is inherently unstable, and the more free reign we give the bloodsuckers, the wilder, crazier and stupider it gets. FDR saved capitalism – George W Bush almost did it in. Now Obama is no socialist. He’s clearly a centrist who leans just a little to the left, as left is defined in America. I think his economic recovery package needs to be doubled at least – and liberal economist Paul Krugmann says the same thing. But at least its a start and far more than what McCain would have done. McCain would have let the economy drown while he bombed Iran. That guy clearly cares nothing about the average American and gets his hard-ons from war.

But lets move on. Hopefully the economic recovery package will be just the first deposit on what we need, which is a lot more public sector in our economy. If it was up to me, I’d say nationalize all the banks (they are busted and on the federal tit already, why not own them collectively), nationalize the auto companies, and take a look at public ownership of energy sectors on top of that.

The big test of Obama will be on the Employee Free Choice Act. Nothing drives American capitalists crazier than the idea of having to let workers have any kind of voice at work – they are already fighting this tooth and nail. Will Obama cave in? Stay tuned. If Obama sticks to his guns, and they ram it through the Congress and sign it, there may be some hope for American liberalism after all. EFCA won’t solve all the unions’ problems. We also need to repeal Taft-Hartley, repeal “right-to-work-for-less”, ban permanent striker replacement (scabbing), and engage in a little thing called class struggle. But EFCA’s a good start.

Speaking of class struggle vs. class snuggle, folks should pay attention to the latest news from the purple plague – SEIU. It’s long been clear to any decent trade unionist that SEIU Pres. Andy Stern is the sleaziest lying hypocrite the American labor movement has ever produced. His “21st century” “we-love-our-bosses” approach to unionism, which means secret back room sweetheart deals with employers is the opposite of real unionism. More and more SEIU members are sick of his bullsh*t, and are in full rebellion against his dictatorial rule of SEIU. The seiu-sh*t is now hitting the fan, and Stern is attempting to put the 150,000 member United Healthcare Workers West in California under trusteeship – sending in hundreds of kool-aid drinking staffer-scabs to take the over the rebel union and do occupation duty. UHW rank and file leaders are saying they will throw the scabs out of the workplaces when they see them. Let’s hope this becomes Andy Stern’s Vietnam and the end of his personality cult for once and for all. Sternism is basically modeled on stalinism without the ideology. To see him disappear would be a good thing. And take his kool-aid drinking corrupt cronies and hacks with him.

And lastly, what about Iowa?

Well, we have a couple of issues. The budget crisis threatens to severely hurt public services that people need and laying off public employees is not going to help the economy. We need to start taxing the rich and closing corporate loopholes to fix the budget shortfall. Culver’s bonding plan is a good thing – borrowing money when interest rates are almost zero is smart. Culver screwed up badly last year when he vetoed open-scope collective bargaining. He’s got a chance this year to redeem himself by helping with fair share agency shop (where everyone who’s in a union workplace helps pay for bargaining and representation, greatly strengthening the power of workers and their ability to engage in collective action by making free-riding a non-option). Will Culver wimp out again? The GOP tried to run against “big labor” in last falls elections and they got nowhere. That dog just doesn’t hunt. It time to tell the Republicans to shove their free market crap where it belongs, and tell them that its a new day in Iowa and the nation. F*ck bipartisanship.

And that’s the word from the frontlines of the class war in Iowa.

Hopefully I’ll be back next week with another rant.

Happy class struggle everyone!

 

P.S. – Iowa blogs I recommend are

Bleeding Heartland

Iowa Independent

Iowa Politics

 

The Des Moines Register is pretty clueless, and seems to be laying off so many reporters that they are becoming a 3rd rate rag. Dead tree journalism is in pretty deep sh*t these days and thats a shame.

Important struggle for union democracy

December 7, 2008

Here’s a link to the latest update in the California press about the fight in SEIU. The struggle in SEIU pits the corrupt authoritarian machine of Andy Stern (the corporate CEOs favorite sell-out union leader) against the rank and file of SEIU’s largest health care workers union in California, United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) and other dissidents nationwide. 

Stern is a believer in “partnership” with the employer, by which he means giving up on all effort to represent workers — SEIU staff are told that workers with grievances are bad, lazy workers and that the union should “add value” to the employer by throwing them under the bus. The model they follow is this — first SEIU international organizes a unit, and then if the local union follows the Stern-approved model, most of the staff disappears once the dues are coming in, because “we don’t do representation.”  The newest wrinkle in Stern-town is pretending to provide representation through a 1-800 number that goes to a call center. Dial-a-union, in other words.

SEIU is moving away from shop floor stewards and merging union locals into giant mega-unions with Stern-appointed leaders. Anyone who doesn’t drink the purple kool-aid and blindly worship Stern is driven off the international union staff. SEIU calls this “21st century unionism” and disparages all other unions as “stuck in the past” especially those that still have autonomous local unions rather than Stern-style top-down control.

Here’s a link to today’s San Francisco Chronicle story

http://tinyurl.com/5lmy33

For more information, go to
http://www.seiuvoice.org/
http://bensonsudblog.blogspot.com/
http://www.uniondemocracy.org/
http://democracy4seiu.blogspot.com/
http://www.reformseiu.org/
and
http://labornotes.org/