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Has the Fat Lady Sung for Rebel Healthcare Union?


Yesterday an outside arbitrator hired to sort out the accusations, counter-charges and bad blood in general between the United Healthcare Workers-West and its parent union, the Service Employees Union International, issued his report. It fell an inch or two short of calling for the rebellious UHW to be stripped of its autonomy and placed under a trusteeship. Ray Marshall, who had served as Jimmy Carter's Secretary of Labor, declared the Oakland-based UHW, led by Sal Rosselli, guilty of a range of charges. Among these were that the UHW illegally transferred $500,000 of the local's funds to a nonprofit organization to be used in its ongoing war with the SEIU and its president, Andy Stern. While Marshall, somewhat surprisingly, did not rubber-stamp Stern's request for the trusteeship, the fix-it ticket provisions he imposed on UHW make it unlikely that this will not happen.


For the past few years Rosselli and Stern have been at each other's throats over several issues revolving around labor-organizing strategy and tactics. Chief among these has been Stern's attempt to remove 65,000 members from the 150,000-strong UHW -- members who mostly work as long-term caregivers to shut-ins -- and place them in the L.A.-based SEIU local that until recently was run by its disgraced president, Tyrone Freeman. Stern's Washington-headquartered SEIU executive board has accused Rosselli of using the $500,000 to wage a propaganda and legal war against this effort. Rosselli denies the accusation, claiming the money is strictly intended for patient education.

Marshall has essentially decided the UHW can escape trusteeship only if it formally submits, within five days of his decree, to the transfer of its contested members to the L.A. local and stops fighting the national leadership. That leadership wasted no time in endorsing Marshall's findings, while a UHW press release called his report "a sad day for the American labor movement and those who believe that social movements should be led from the bottom up, rather than the top down."


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