SEIU's Brush With Blagogate & Other Sorrows


It seems like only yesterday that Andy Stern, who heads the giant Service Employees International Union (nearly two-million members), shocked the labor movement when, in July, 2004, he told the Washington Post's David Broder that both organized labor and

the Democratic Party might be better off with John Kerry losing that year's election. The two institutions, said Stern, had become unresponsive and needed to needed to evolve out of their "archaic structures." Shortly after these words, Stern and several other union leaders would help fulfill his Kerry prophesy by walking out of the AFL-CIO and forming Change to Win, a rival organization.

SEIU president Andy Stern

Today the media is full of SEIU news -- but most of it isn't about evolving out of archaic structures. Quite the opposite. First there was the

L.A. Times

' expose of alleged corruption and cronyism charges leveled against L.A. local presidents Tyrone Freeman and Annelle Grajeda. Then attention shifted to Rickman James, a Freeman associate whom the SEIU international office has sacked from the presidency of the union's largest Michigan local. And this week, of course, SEIU had suffered the defiling touch of indicted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who has emerged as an irrepressible throwback to his states' storied history of political corruption.

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The fortune cookie version of events is that Blagojevich tried to

leverage a position as the head of Change to Win -- supposedly in

exchange for the guv opening White House doors for SEIU. The problem with

this scenario is that, because of SEIU's early support of Barack Obama's

presidential campaign, and through its massive get-out-the-vote effort

on behalf of Obama, the union doesn't need Blagojevich to open any

doors for it -- SEIU already has a swipe card to the front gate of 1600

Pennsylvania Avenue. Also, according to Change to Win sources, the

position Blagojevich supposedly sought is an unpaid one. (Although Blago

seems to have been a man who saw an opportunity  to trade favors

anywhere. Perhaps he thought as

the head of Change to Win he'd score a few free Labor Day breakfasts.)

Besides

possibly weakening its clout with Obama (SEIU's woes are providing the

president-elect with an opportunity to distance himself from his

campaign promises to labor, should he desire to do so), the

international SEIU's bad P.R. is emboldening its California dissident

members to push back against Stern's relentless campaign to strip

unruly state locals of their popular leaders by consolidating these

locals into huge mega-locals. Today, at 4:30 p.m., some of those dissidents will rally

outside the LAX Radisson, where ballots are being counted on a proposal

to merge their locals into the new statewide super-local. Protesters from the United Healthcare

Workers branch of the SEIU claim the election was rigged,

because only 28,000 ballots are being tallied, while UHW says 80,000 of

its members signed cards declaring their opposition to the election.

Furthermore, the dissidents say the ballot only offers two choices

relating to details of the merger -- but not whether to accept or reject the

merger itself.

"It's a choice of getting shot in the left knee or the right knee," said one union member.


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