Monday, February 2, 2009

California Workers Fight for Independent Union

This is from Counterpunch, and concerns a very important fight going on within the American labor movement: the fight between rank and file workers and corrupt union bosses. 

The American labor must break with two hugely poisonous traditions that has always been present within it: the Democrats and the corrupt union leadership. This two-front fight must be fought if the American labor is to revive its history-making potentials. The fight against Service Employees International Union (SEIU), led by some California health workers wishing to create their own independent union is well worth supporting and cheering. Our solidarity is with them. Salute!

Checking Out of Stern's Hotel California
By STEVE EARLY (Counterpunch, Feb. 2, 2009)

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) wants its members to believe that their union is just like the alluring but ultimately nightmarish hostelry immortalized by The Eagles. It’s a place of permanent imprisonment only "programmed to receive" workers and their dues money, not let either go elsewhere when the rhetoric of “progressive unionism” wears thin and the rank-and-file becomes restive. According to proprietor Andy Stern, once you’ve checked into SEIU, you can never leave.

Tens of thousands of Stern’s disgruntled “guests,” who work in west coast health care facilities, are about to disprove this claim. Their bags are packed and they’re headed out the door of Stern’s “Hotel California,” as soon as federal (or local) labor law permits. After a bruising internal battle—in which an estimated ten million dollars of their own money was used by Stern to undermine and attack them—rank-and-filers in Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers (UHW) have formed a new union of their own. Launched on January 28, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) is seeking to retain bargaining rights long held by UHW, until Stern placed it under trusteeship the day before.

Workers made a collective decision to flee SEIU after the long-threatened take-over of its third-largest affiliate. As previously reported in CounterPunch, Stern began brandishing this club last March. When UHW had the audacity to question SEIU’s management-friendly approach to health care organizing, bargaining, and politics, the SEIU president launched a multi-faceted counter-insurgency campaign. Now, several hundred out-of-state SEIU staffers have been dispatched to California as a full-time occupation force. At huge expense to the union treasury, their mission is to replace 100 elected UHW leaders, purge UHW’s own 500-member staff, seize the local’s offices and assets, and inform employers that they should no longer deal with UHW representatives about any labor-management issues. (See accompanying report from Oakland by Cal Winslow.) According to Stern, this highly disruptive intervention in a well-functioning local is necessary “to restore democratic procedures” and “protect the members’ interest.” After “UHW has been stabilized”—which could take 18 months to three years, based on past SEIU practice—“elections for new officers will be held.”

Related article:
Stern's Gang Seizes UHW Union Hall (by Cal Winslow; Counterpunch, Feb. 2, 2009)

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