Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Things got worse last night:
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) held a boisterous picket line in San Francisco [on Monday night], but their chants targeted a surprising adversary: labor leaders and their political allies. While California Democratic Party Chair John Burton (labor’s greatest California ally), State Senator Mark Leno and leaders of UNITE HERE, the Sailors, Plumbers, Building Trades, and Police and Fire unions, were inside the Plumbers Union Hall honoring the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), SEIU was outside denouncing NUHW – and by implication its supporters – as corrupt. Last week, SEIU informed Burton that it would end its $1 million annual donation to the state Party unless he withdrew his support for NUHW, which he refused to do.
SEIU’s threat to labor hero Burton, and its reported statement to the United Teachers of Los Angeles (sponsor of tonight’s NUHW fundraiser) that it would seek to organize charter school teachers in retaliation for UTLA’s pro-NUHW stance, reflects a union increasingly at odds with the labor movement. In July, 25 international union leaders condemned SEIU’s raids on UNITE HERE, and new AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has since vowed to defend UNITE HERE against SEIU attacks. SEIU is now isolated, viewing fellow unions and pro-labor politicians as adversaries, and its scorched earth campaign against its former California health care leadership is coming at a steepening internal and political cost.
SEIU is seeking to impose its model of business unionism upon American workers by any means necessary. At a time when organized labor should be coming together to resist the global neoliberal onslaught, SEIU has chosen to go in a different direction. One gets the impression that Andy Stern welcomes the remorseless restructuring of the economy because he believes that SEIU is best positioned to organize increased numbers of low paid service workers.
One night after withdrawing its support for the California Democratic Party and picketing progressive politicians and labor leaders in San Francisco, SEIU threw eggs at those attending an event honoring NUHW in Los Angeles. Among those hit were the Vice President of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union whose support for NUHW led SEIU to threaten to organize teachers in charter schools (not that SEIU has any staff available to implement such a threat).