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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Central Valley | Labor & Workers
There is a Path to Peace
Letter to Andy Stern, president of SEIU
June 15, 2009
To: Andy Stern
From: John W. Wilhelm, President
THERE IS A PATH TO PEACE
I am responding to your latest in a long line of calls to solve the UNITE HERE – SEIU dispute through binding arbitration.
First, let’s recap.
Notwithstanding your repeated attempts to characterize this as an “internal” UNITE HERE struggle, beginning last fall if not earlier, you and other top SEIU officers conspired to split UNITE HERE, promote secession of thousands of members, remove assets, and organize in UNITE HERE’s core hotel, gaming, and food service jurisdictions. You enlisted your long time confidant Steve Rosenthal, who was paid by Bruce Raynor $500,000 in UNITE HERE dues money to conduct a months long massive communications program that directed hundreds of thousands of mailers and phone calls into our members’ homes all across North America. Top SEIU officers, including Anna Burger, Tom Woodruff, Mike Fishman, and you, advocated secession at UNITE HERE membership meetings. You used a private investigator to pry into my family’s personal affairs as well as the personal affairs of other key leaders of UNITE HERE.
You used “shock and awe” in hopes we would submit, so you could steal UNITE HERE’s members, jurisdiction, and assets.
We publicized these well-worn SEIU tactics in a research report, titled “Growing Pains,” which documented no fewer than seven separate raids by SEIU on other unions since 2001(http://oneunitehere.org/documents.asp). So we understand the SEIU raid game plan.
Now that we have control of our own International Union offices in New York City, we have ample documentation of all these matters, and also of the fact that Bruce Raynor emptied the Union’s treasury in his drive to split the Union, in violation of our Constitution and Federal law.
It is extraordinary that you have the audacity to say that we are hurting workers, when it is you who sponsored and carried out this raid. Indeed, UFCW President Joe Hansen, who worked so hard to mediate this dispute, stated in a recent letter that SEIU’s involvement has made a solution more difficult.
Now, you have launched a public relations offensive to persuade us to arbitrate UNITE HERE’s membership, jurisdiction and treasury. An analogy comes to mind.
Suppose a burglar broke into your house, stole your property, and demanded ransom. Then the burglar contacts you to demand that a third party be given the right to divide up the stolen property. Would anyone accept such an offer?
You and Raynor plotted to break up UNITE HERE, remove assets from the Union’s control, and organize in UNITE HERE’s traditional industry jurisdictions. Having made this attempted burglary you now want to have a third party divide up the spoils. Only UNITE HERE would be at risk in such an arbitration – SEIU would have no risk.
No victim of a theft would ever agree to such a proposition.
No International Union would agree to put its future members, its jurisdiction, and assets in the hands of an arbitrator.
Moreover, because of President Hansen’s written mediator’s recommendations (which have been widely circulated), we already know the views of a respected, impartial leader who spent an enormous amount of time understanding this dispute. Who could possibly be better qualified to identify the path to peace?
President Hansen’s recommendations provided a clear path to settlement. SEIU rejected the heart of those recommendations: that the hotel and gaming membership and organizing jurisdiction belong in UNITE HERE, and that UNITE HERE must have sufficient assets “for the future viability and health of the union.”
President Hansen’s ringing endorsement of UNITE HERE’s core industry jurisdiction echoes a founding principle of Change to Win. In his words:
“I believe workers have the best opportunity to improve their lives when they join together throughout an industry as one union. Carving up core industry jurisdiction weakens the ability of a union to combine its resources in organizing and bargaining with national employers – and it diminishes the voice workers have on the job.”
How ironic that SEIU rejected this path to a settlement – rejecting in the process what SEIU and Change to Win claim to stand for.
cc: Bruce Raynor