Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Conflict in the SEIU

It seems from these posts that Stern wants to increase union membership and thus dues by making sweetheart deals with employers. Rosselli is supposedly "old-fashioned" because he places members' interests first! With the increasing weakness of labor there is a big markout for sellout union leaders. The press applauds such leaders as "innovators" !


<http://www.sfweekly.com/2008-02-20/news/local-union-leader-rosselli- blasts-seiu-boss-andy-stern/>SF Weekly - February 20, 2008Local Union Leader Rosselli Blasts SEIU Boss Andy SternBy Matt SmithSomewhere in California there's a woman alone in a nursing home with bedsores that grow more painful and life-threatening by the day. And down the hall there's an orderly who would like to do something about her but can't, because during some shifts he's one of just two care- givers on a ward with dozens of patients."California nursing homes are sweatshops, [and] a terrible place to live," said Sal Rosselli, president of California's largest healthcare workers' union local, Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers–West, during an online interview last week with the magazine Labor Notes.While Rosselli's statement might sound like ordinary pre-strike cant, his words are actually much more radical than that.Rosselli's criticisms are directed at America's most famous labor leader, Andy Stern, the celebrity president of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU). According to Rosselli, Stern's expansion of the union has cost workers the ability to complain or fight to improve conditions."People join unions because they want to change their lives," Rosselli told Labor Notes. "Workers in struggle create real moral authority, and other people see it and it makes them want to join unions, too. The same is not true with these top-down deals ... where the union agrees to prenegotiated contracts that severely limit workers' bargaining rights and voice."I've written before about these SEIU deals (see "Partners in Slime," June 30, 2004, and "Union Disunity," April 11, 2007), where the union agrees to prohibit workers from complaining about conditions in exchange for being able to recruit more members in nursing-home chains. I've also described how this strategy privately angered workers and organizers in California, the union's greatest stronghold.But last week Rosselli turned this once-secret dispute into an open rebellion. This is no minor quarrel. Until recently, he was the head of the 600,000-member SEIU California state council; he resigned earlier this month as a member of the policy-setting national SEIU executive committee, while retaining his post as president of United Healthcare Workers–West, the 150,000-member SEIU branch representing California hospital, nursing home, and home-care workers.Rosselli's new dissident movement has the potential to derail Stern's ambitious plans to expand into home daycare, alliances with overseas unions in countries such as China, and collaborative agreements with companies such as Wal-Mart, which joined with SEIU last year to push for broadened healthcare coverage. By painting SEIU's national leadership as bent on undermining workers' rights, Rosselli's renegade battle could harm efforts by SEIU to present a united front during a crucial presidential campaign. Last week, SEIU endorsed Barack Obama, and is mobilizing members to work on his primary and general election campaigns.Rosselli announced his resignation in an open letter claiming that Stern has focused on growth at any cost. Rosselli's local has also launched a new Web site, www.seiuvoice.com, accusing Stern of expanding union power at workers' expense. Rosselli also issued a series of statements in response to inquiries from SF Weekly in which he made public for the first time his accusations of a Stern power grab. SEIU's national press office did not respond by press time to my request for an interview with Stern or his representatives.Stern's supporters may protest that this is a bad time to open a national discussion about whether the key Democratic Party ally has been instrumental in curtailing workers' rights. But after a decade in which the poor have gotten poorer, the sick have received less care, and organized labor has made few inroads into making things better, I can think of no better moment for a long-delayed debate over whether Stern's vision of expansion at any cost is truly in the best interest of workers.During an election year filled with calls for "change," it may seem ironic that an anachronism within an anachronism might be a source for change within the Democratic Party.To the extent organized labor appears in the press as something other than a component of a political or business story, it's portrayed as outdated and irrelevant — unless the story happens to mention Stern. He is known for pursuing a "collaborative" rather than adversarial relationship with employers. As Stern's fame has grown, his supposed modernization campaign has become the most-covered story in the labor movement.Rosselli, meanwhile, is a longtime activist little known outside the old-line labor city of San Francisco, despite leading a behemoth California healthcare union. He is a former nursing home worker who was president of the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club in the early days of the AIDS crisis. In 1988, he led a dissident faction in the local healthcare workers' union that blamed decline in membership on "30 years of international control," referring to the union's top leadership. Rosselli defeated a slate of candidates who had been handpicked by the national SEIU and has been one of California's top labor leaders ever since.In the storyline of the current U.S. labor movement — as depicted in piles of Stern magazine profiles — Rosselli is the kind of old- fashioned leader that history might forget. But it's Stern's cheap- trick "modernization" that should be left in the dust.This view has been challenged by the specific details of Stern's supposed "modernizing" labor deals. A nursing home pact (first described in SF Weekly's 2004 story) between the union and home operators took away the right of patients and their families to sue those operators in cases where patients are injured, raped, or killed. Subsequent contracts obtained by SF Weekly showed these deals stifled workers' free speech rights while also curbing their ability to earn decent pay. Rosselli had previously privately criticized these agreements within the union while giving them tacit public support. Last week he made his criticisms public, creating the first credible rebellion against Stern's leadership.In his letter to Stern, Rosselli lists a series of grievances suggesting that SEIU's sellout model of union organizing stretches beyond the wards of nursing homes.Rosselli described secret negotiations last fall between Stern and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In these meetings, Stern allegedly agreed to support a watered-down healthcare package in exchange for measures that would help expand SEIU's membership. Some union leaders had urged California Democrats to support a single-payer plan that would eliminate private insurers. An eventual compromise bill between the Democrats and Schwarzenegger was based on requiring more Californians to have insurance. The bill is now considered dead."Your secret meetings with Governor Schwarzenegger and other elected officials, without the participation of SEIU California leaders, fatally weakened our many years of disciplined work to bring about true healthcare reform," Rosselli wrote to Stern.While the healthcare bill may now be dead, the Schwarzenegger-Stern negotiations appear to be the legislative equivalent of a ghost. According to Sacramento insiders, Senate Bill 867 was the quid pro quo SEIU demanded in order to back the doomed healthcare plan. If passed, it would help SEIU absorb into its union ranks people who provide state-subsidized day care in their homes. Though healthcare reform has died, this apparent sop to SEIU lives on. The bill was sent to committee last week.Rosselli alleged that Stern grabbed for power elsewhere, too, claiming that Stern is poised to weaken Rosselli's local union's influence by attempting to separate 65,000 home care workers out of Rosselli's UHW, essentially cutting Roselli's union in half. Rosselli also accused Stern of sabotaging his local unions' efforts to participate in negotiations on new contracts with healthcare systems affiliated with the Catholic Church."We are concerned that SEIU's international leadership has charted a course that values growth above all other principles," Rosselli said in a statement responding to questions from SF Weekly."Our folks are enraged," Rosselli told Labor Notes. "We had been working for 20 years toward similar working conditions and standards for nursing home workers and hospital workers. They are different now, and very different in terms of conditions for patients."Rosselli's bid to incite open revolt inside what is America's fastest- growing union seems a long shot. Stern enjoys firm control over SEIU's national executive committee. During the past year, Rosselli's complaints have been brushed off by national leadership.But despite Stern's status as American labor's biggest celebrity, some union members — many of them outside Rosselli's dissident healthcare union — are furious about the way he has wielded power during the past few years. In California and elsewhere, the SEIU has consolidated what used to be dozens of small local unions into large industry-based locals. In the process, union staff have been laid off or moved into different jobs with worse benefits. This has created a bizarre situation where the AFL-CIO–affiliated union that represents SEIU organizers, secretaries, and other union office staff has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that SEIU itself has behaved as an abusive employer. Rank-and-file workers, meanwhile, feel that in some cases their ability to select their own leadership has been either diluted or abridged.And there's the issue of the downright nastiness of Stern-led deals that trade away the legal rights of people as helpless as the elderly and the disabled. SF Weekly's stories about SEIU's nursing-home deals have been widely read within organized labor as evidence that Stern's "collaborative" arrangements with employers aren't modernization at all. Instead they hark back to the bad old days of company-union sweetheart deals that have given organized labor a reputation for corruption.Rosselli's open rebellion is premised on the hope that somewhere in America, there are SEIU workers growing tired of Stern's ruse who will begin to advocate for real workers' rights.___________________________________

This is from Harper's:


ttp://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/hbc-90002386>
Internal Dispute at SEIU Deepens
Ken Silverstein
February 13, 2008
A few months back I reported on internal fighting at the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU), describing what looked to be a
power grab by President Andy Stern. Now Stern’s chief in-house
critic, Sal Rosselli, the president of United Healthcare Workers West
(UHW), has resigned from the SEIU’s Executive Committee. In his
resignation letter, reproduced below, Rosselli accused Stern of
disenfranchising workers, cutting backroom deals with companies and
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and trying to block an
SEIU endorsement of Barack Obama.
February 9, 2008
Dear Brother Stern:
Like you, I take great pride in the recent growth of SEIU and the
prominent position our union holds in the labor movement and in
public policy debates of critical importance to working families. I
was honored four years ago when you appointed me to your executive
committee. During the previous eight years, we had worked together
constructively to help hundreds of thousands of health care workers
in California and beyond join our union and change their lives.
In United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), we have always believed that
our international union should be about more than numbers and
headlines. Over the past two years, a stark difference has evolved
between SEIU’s projected image and its real world practices. An
overly zealous focus on growth—growth at any cost, apparently—has
eclipsed SEIU’s commitment to its members. As labor leaders, we are
obligated to place the needs of our members first and to uphold
democratic principles not only in the workplace, but also in our
union. That is increasingly being blocked, circumvented and
manipulated.
It is said that “democracy dies in the darkness.” It is with deep
disappointment and great concern that I have watched dark shadows
fall upon SEIU, diminishing our hopes for revitalizing the labor
movement. Let me shed some light on the undemocratic practices we in
UHW have experienced firsthand:
You unilaterally decided to eliminate the Catholic Healthcare West
(CHW) Unity Council and appointed an International Union consultant
to manage our collective bargaining relationship, even though the
Council's creation was adopted by CHW rank-and-file leaders and
approved by the International Executive Board. By all accounts, our
relationship with CHW had been enormously successful and had led to
significant growth and dramatic improvement in the lives of SEIU
members who work at CHW. Your decision potentially weakens us just as
we are about to enter negotiations for 16,000 CHW employees,
jeopardizing the lead contract of our 2008 contract campaign that has
lined up the expiration dates of nearly 100 acute care hospitals
covering approximately 100,000 caregivers.
Similarly, you silenced workers' voices in bargaining with the
California Nursing Home Alliance by directing International Union
representatives to meet with our employers behind our backs and then
abused your power by barring UHW members and staff from participating
in direct negotiations with our employers, despite the fact that UHW
represents 75 percent of the nursing home members in bargaining.
Based on our recent meetings with representatives of the nursing home
industry, it is obvious that the International Union's secret
discussions with our employers are continuing.
You recently decided to intensify the divisive debate about
separating long-term care workers from hospital workers in California
which will further undermine our unity just as negotiations commence
for contracts at more than 100 nursing homes—contracts we fought for

years to align on a common expiration date of June 2008 — in order to

win major improvements for caregivers and residents and secure
organizing rights for workers in as many as 98 additional facilities,
including 17 where organizing drives are already under way.
Despite our representation of the largest number of workers in
Catholic health care of any SEIU local and the direct involvement of
two employers with whom we are engaged in active campaigns, you
exclude UHW from participation in discussions with the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops. In response to our request for review
of your decision, you have now scheduled a hearing in Chicago for
February 12, with only 8 days' notice, whose scope is far broader
than anything approved by the International Executive Board, on the
alleged ground that it is necessary to review all aspects of our
Catholic health care employer relations and representation, raising
the specter that these matters will be placed entirely under control
of the International Union and its bureaucracy where rank and file
members will have no say, and no ability to affect their workplace
destiny.
In a deliberate attempt to create instability in important ongoing
organizing campaigns by fomenting mass resignations among our
Southern California organizing staff, your officers and staff helped
orchestrate the recent resignation of Southern California Organizing
Director, Amado David, whose letter of resignation appeared to have
been created on SEIU equipment weeks before his resigning and is now
being circulated by you to other SEIU leaders, all as a pretext for
taking further action against UHW's leaders and members. Despite this
attempt, our UHW Southern California organizing program remains fully
staffed and staff remain committed to UHW's organizing program.
You and other international officers interfered in the affairs of the
SEIU California State Council—our collective vehicle for state
legislative and electoral action—using the imposition of a revised
constitution and bylaws to prompt a presidential election when none
had been anticipated, then manipulating the per capita voting formula
and procedures in order to produce the outcome you desired.
Ultimately, you permitted provisional locals with no members (and
locals that have never paid per capita) and locals that were months
behind in per capita payments (owing the State Council nearly $2
million) to vote in the election so that you could control the
outcome of the election and seat the leader of your choice.
Your secret meetings with Governor Schwarzenegger and other elected
officials, without the participation of SEIU California leaders,
fatally weakened our many years of disciplined work to bring about
true health care reform. Those secret discussions with the governor
and his staff led them to believe that SEIU—and the labor movement
along with us—would settle for far less than was necessary to protect

the interests of working families or to win the support of
California's voters. The final deal that was struck, while far better
than the settlement you had recommended, was flawed and tainted as a
result of your actions and was politically doomed.
Just last week you attempted secretly, although unsuccessfully, to
squelch the SEIU California State Council's endorsement of Barack
Obama for President.
You removed a UHW administrative vice president from the Executive
Board of the California United Homecare Workers Union (CUHW) for
asking questions about "budget and allocation of funds." Your actions
like this have created a culture of fear throughout SEIU, making
local officers, members and staff afraid to speak up for fear of
reprisal.
Your international officers and staff manipulated voting procedures
in Unity Council bargaining with Tenet Healthcare in order to thwart
the will of the members and achieve your desired outcome.
Specifically, international officers tried to cast "per capita" votes
on behalf of unorganized workers who had no knowledge of the
negotiations, paid no dues to SEIU, and were not even in the process
of forming a union. Your failed effort would have given away our
members' right to strike for seven years and would have forced them
to accept lower standards.
As you know, UHW (formerly Locals 250 and 399) is the oldest health
care union in the country, with 75 years of proud and historic
accomplishments. We stand for the principle of one member, one vote
and the basic belief that members must have a seat at the bargaining
table and the right to vote on all agreements that affect them. We
believe that involving members at all levels of our union, providing
rank-and-file workers with the support they need to decide our
direction and lead our struggles, while winning good contracts that
improve caregivers' lives and the quality of the care we provide.
These are the best examples we can use to organize the unorganized.
Consistent with this, we believe that the deterioration of democracy
in our union will have disastrous consequences.
The Nursing Home Alliance agreements and others negotiated by the
International Union appear to relegate entire categories of workers
to permanent second-tier status, without basic rights and standards
to be expected in a union contract or any reasonable hope of
achieving them. This transactional exchange of members’ rights and
standards for greater numbers contradicts the core mission of SEIU.
We must be committed to fight for higher standards so that workers
who perform the same work will ultimately earn the same pay and
benefits, regardless of the identity of their employer.
Let me be clear. We fully support a culture of organizing and
strongly approve the goal of organizing our core industries. We also
understand the obligation that union strongholds like California and
New York have to help organize health care workers outside those two
states. Our own organizing record, our leadership in developing and
supporting the organizing recommendations of the President’s
Committee 2000 and the establishment of the Unity Funds, our
successful bargaining-to-organize fights in CHW, Tenet and HCA that
led to growth opportunities outside of California, and our direct
assistance to local and international organizing efforts throughout
the country leave no doubt regarding our commitment.
Each year UHW provides $23 million in per capita payments and Unity
Fund contributions to the International Union. We do so, even though
this is the fourth straight year in which not a dime is spent in
California. However, we cannot support, as you propose, sending even
more of our organizing dollars to Washington and giving the
International Union even greater control of their use when so many of
SEIU’s organizing ventures have not and will not build power in our
core industries, which was the purpose of the dues increase.
Furthermore, we see an ever diminishing International Union
commitment to improve workers’ lives now or in the future.
Much of what I have outlined here I have said to you directly and in
Executive Committee meetings. I have abided by the code of conduct
for Executive Committee members that requires what is said in the
committee to stay in the committee and that positions adopted by
majority vote of the committee should determine the position of all
its members.
In good conscience, I can no longer allow simple majorities of the
Executive Committee to outweigh my responsibility to our members to
act out of principle on these critically important matters. I say
this with no ill will, but with a deep sense of conviction.
As an elected leader of UHW and an elected international union vice
president, I believe that maintaining my silence about the sacrifice
of our principles and our failing to give voice to a clear and honest
disagreement about the road we are on and the future direction of our
International Union is too high of a price to pay. Therefore, my
conscience leaves me no option but to resign my position as a member
of the Executive Committee, effective immediately.
I believe that workers must have a voice. Indeed, that is the central
reason I believe in our union. I believe that for workers to have a
representative and effective voice, capable of changing their lives
and the direction of our nation, many voices must be heard, not just
those from Washington. I resign not to walk away, but to stay
involved and to be able to speak freely.
In Unity,
Sal Rosselli
___________________________________

1 comment:

aglickman said...

This article in the SF Chronicle suggests that Sal Rosselli isn't as interested in union democracy as he claims. It’s hard to take him seriously when he is guilty of the things he accuses others of. Seems to me he is hurting the members that he represents with his personal ambitions and scurrilous attacks.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/10/BAESVG4KG.DTL&hw