Last Friday the Service Employees International Union announced that its executive board had voted to merge three of its California branches of long-term health-care workers into one mega-local. This would add 90,000-members from SEIU state locals 6434 and 521, to the union's 150,000-member United Healthcare Workers-West unit (UHW).
"The International Executive Board of the Service Employees
International Union," crowed an SEIU press release, "today voted overwhelmingly to adopt the
recommendations of an outside hearing officer."
Left: SEIU president Andy Stern
Although the release was issued Friday, many SEIU members had the feeling it had been typed two years ago -- when a rift over the merger between UHW head Sal Rosselli and SEIU president Andy Stern became public. The
Oakland-based Rosselli and his members boycotted a December election on the merger issue,
which they claim to have been illegitimate. Basically, Rosselli's group
wants to remain autonomous in the face of Stern's policy of creating
super-locals out of SEIU's more independently minded units.
That election was the first shoe to drop -- SEIU's Friday merger announcement was the second. UHW, with members in Northern and Southern California, soon had a
shoe of its own to drop -- but instead threw it at Stern within
hours of SEIU's merger announcement. UHW claims it has enough member
signatures to hold a vote to disaffiliate from SEIU, an announcement
that drew instant rebuke from the International.
"UHW leaders," charged a second SEIU press release Friday, "are apparently unwilling to accept the democratic processes
of this union and are instead hiding behind opposition that they
manufactured after a months-long campaign of scare tactics and
misrepresentations to their members."
is the country's biggest and fastest-growing union, but has recently
been beset by corruption scandals triggered by allegations of
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wrongdoing committed by disgraced Los Angeles leaders -- including Tyrone Freeman, with whose former local Rosselli's members are to merge; SEIU
even figures into the investigation of disgraced Illinois governor Rod
Blagojevich. The fight between the Stern-controlled SEIU international
and Rosselli's rebels promises to be long and bitter.