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.

Right: Sal Rosselli

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

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.

LA Weekly