LaborNet - Internet Board
Global online communication since 1991 for a democratic, independent labor movement
Home | Current Blog | News Archive | Video | Resources | Back Links | About LaborNet

image image

Source Dan Mariscal, SEIU 347
Date 09/02/02/14:46

JUST WHEN WE thought that we, the SEIU union members, might finally make
some progress, something always happens. Although through some questionable
means of collection, $85 million dollars of SEIU members money was spent in
electing our first minority president and potential union sympathizer,
President Obama. But at the same time so much corruption was publicly
exposed, that it rendered our efforts to get the ultimate prize, the
Employee Free Choice Act, almost out of reach. So what happened?

It all comes down to choices....good ones and bad ones, and who makes them.
At the beginning of the race for the democratic choice for presidential
candidate, SEIU administration made a choice over who was going to get our
campaign dollars, and it wasn't Obama. Lots (read millions) of our SEIU
generated dollars went to support John Edwards. Of course, he didn't win.
SEIU ultimately and reluctantly made another choice, to put the major $85M
bet on Obama. But how do you amass this much money without tapping
"directly" into the members dues money? (Which, of course is a federal
no-no). It was decided that in the June 2008 SEIU convention in Puerto Rico,
it was going to be voted on by the delegates. There was just one catch; your
chances of being a delegate were much, much better if you were a declared
SEIU President Stern supporter.... and, oh yeah, you had to be a
contributing COPA (Committee On Political Action) member "in good standing".
The results were predictable. The Article XV amendment of the SEIU
Constitution and By-laws was passed. The Article basically establishes a
minimum amount for COPA contributions from the locals (notice I didn't say
members), and if it's not met then the International gets to take that
amount, plus 50% from the "Locals'" money. (Yes, The National Right To Work
Foundation got involved on this issue, but not in time to affect the
election A vote
was held and a "choice" was made. The money found it's way into the
political coffers, nonetheless.

2008 also saw the exposure and/or involvement of SEIU corruption (financial
malfeasance) focused on the west coast, with Annelle Grajeda (President of
Local 721), her boyfriend Alejandro Stephens (Former President of Local
660), Tyrone Freeman (Local 6434) and his former Chief of Staff, Rickman
Jackson. All of these leaders were appointed or "chosen" by the SEIU
Administration for these positions.

This and the recent Blogojevic, deposed former Governor of Illinois,
debacle gave the anti-union corporate and industry cartels just the fodder
they needed to have their proverbial organizing and fund raising "field day"
against the EFCA. This "shot across the bow" for Obama was just too close
for comfort and he began back-peddling. As noted by Steve Early in, "During the campaign Obama made clear his support for EFCA
and there has recently been alarm that Obama may be backing away".

The internal divisions of SEIU have also had their effect. The battle over
United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW-W) left a bad taste in the public's
mouth as well as union sympathizers and scholars alike. On or about February
2008, the UHW-W's president Sal Rosselli resigned his 600,000-member SEIU
California State Council seat. The issue was initially over the lack of
union democracy and somehow, later, the International President wound up
charging Mr. Rosselli and 9 other UHW-W officials of financial malfeasance
in the US District Court. The case was thrown out. The International
President thereafter began trusteeship proceedings over the similar charges,
paid for a hearing officer (Ray Marshall) and held trusteeship hearings in
San Mateo, California. It was quite a spectacle to watch SEIU paid staff
standing over SEIU paid Mr. Marshall, whispering in his ear, during the
proceedings. I guess the US District Court judges wouldn't have allowed
this. Trusteeship of UHW-W began even before the decision was rendered.

The end result, at this point, has many different spins. Some say that at
least "we helped" elect Obama and he in turn appointed Hilda Solis as
Secretary of Labor. A positive spin, to be sure. Others will argue that the
Labor Movement has been soiled for years to come and the EFCA has been
pushed further from Labor's reach.

What seems to be clear is that SEIU has never displayed so much division in
it's ranks starting from its split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. However, some
may argue that the statistics are there that SEIU has grown its ranks where
other unions have declined in membership. But if you look closer, some of
those statistics include the work of UHW-W which has grown it's membership
to 150,000. Is this what is being cited in SEIU's growth statistics? UHW-W
has recently called for a disaffiliation vote after their trusteeship by the
SEIU International. If successful, how would this affect the SEIU

SEIU has also engaged in mergers, reportedly to increase clout of the
members, because of the numbers. In regards to SEIU's merging locals into
mega-locals; on its' surface may be true...from the union accountants' and
union treasurer's point of view. However, forcing locals together has caused
resentment and internal division because the local's common concerns and
common goals that united these members, in the first place, are now being
forcibly abandoned for a more global philosophy. This has resulted in
worksite weakness, which adversely affects the ability of the local workers
to bargain their contracts with their employers, at that local level. Which,
of course, more immediately and directly affects those local workers, as
opposed to the Union's administrative staff, which doesn't feel that pain
and therefore is disconnected from the line workforce.

Up to this point, has there been more harm done to the Labor Movement than
good? Where you sit would depend on where you would stand. If you're the
Treasurer of SEIU, things aren't so bad. If you're a staunch supporter of
the EFCA.....don't hold your breath.

[View the list]