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Thousands Of SEIU UHW Workers March and Protest In SJ Against Threat Of Trusteeship
by repost
Sunday Sep 7th, 2008 6:55 AM
Thousands of SEIU UHW workers marched and rallied against a threatened trusteeship ofthe 150,000 member local by SEIU pres Andy Stern. They voted in a statement that they will use all resources and not allow a take-over of their democratic rights. This struggle is the most important battle going on since the fight in the Teamsters by Ron Kerry and the issue of corporatization of the unions is applicable to most unions in the US.
Thousands Of SEIU UHW And Other SEIU Members March and Protest In San Jose Against Threatened Stern Trusteeship
The Fight For United Healthcare Workers West
by Todd Beeton, Sat Sep 06, 2008 at 06:15:17 PM EST

I'm at the San Jose Convention Center at the annual SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West leadership conference. You thought unity was the theme of the Democratic convention? This conference gave it a serious run for its money. When I was at the SEIU convention in Puerto Rico, my fellow bloggers and I wrote briefly about the conflict brewing between the international and this 150,000 strong California-based healthcare worker local but since then it has escalated and UHW-W intends to fight back.
On August 25 SEIU President Andy Stern announced a trusteeship hearing on whether SEIU should appoint a trustee to "take charge and control of the affairs of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West and a trusteeship imposed over UHW-W." The hearing is to be held Sept. 26 & 27 somewhere in Northern California.
The timing is curious, coming on the heels of allegations of corruption on the part of Tyrone Freeman, head of another California healthcare workers local and a Stern appointee; it also came mere days before UHW-W's leadership conference and I can tell you from being here, if the international wants a fight, they found one.
The conference was attended by more than 2000 elected UHW-W workplace leaders and the sense of purpose and resolve among them is palpable. They are motivated, they are unified and as one woman addressing the convention put it:

The giant is awake and we are pissed.
The membership here unanimously passed a resolution vowing to fight the trusteeship:

Let it be resolved that we will fight to ensure that UHW members maintain full control of our union and oppose any attempts to unlawfully trustee our local and place it under the watch of appointed leaders from Washington, DC for purely political reasons; and
Let is be further resolved that UHW will fight to keep our members united in one statewide healthcare workers union and will use all available means, including mobilizing our 150,000 members to support our union and directing our President and Officers to take all appropriate actions including deploying the necessary resources, staff, and other means to carry out this resolution.

A good 4000 or so also marched through downtown San Jose and then held a rally, waving signs reading "We built this union and it's ours" and "Our union, our voice." They feel that Stern, with his threat of a trusteeship, wants to weaken their power by trying to divide their membership. No one here intends to let that happen.
In the short term, that fight entails deploying members to DC to meet with all 53 members of California's congressional delegation. How many of the 53 will actually meet with UHW's members is unclear, of course, but they intend to try. In addition, leadership here repeatedly rallied the crowd of 2000 to take off work on Sept. 26 & 27 to attend the trusteeship hearing and bring 10 co-workers with them. They want to overwhelm the international with 20,000 plus to let them know they're not going down without a fight. There is a sense from people I've spoken to that the trusteeship is probably inevitable; they're calling the hearing a "kangaroo court." But at the same time members are saying quite simply "We won't go", referring to their refusal to be taken from their union without their say.
In the longer term, what UHW-W hopes to achieve is 1. to build one statewide healthcare workers union in California; and 2. to, as they put it, "reform SEIU into a democratic union with leadership accountable to its members." At the heart of this conflict, it's really union democracy that people are fighting to preserve.
Robert at calitics nails why this matters for all of us.

Whatever the outcome, there is a strong commitment to democracy among the 2,000 members here - democracy in the workplace, democracy in their union, democracy in their nation. Despite the internal politics that is an extremely positive sign. The labor movement has been at the forefront of social democratic politics in this country for over 100 years. When labor is strong, progressive politics are strong. Which makes the SEIU's efforts to trustee UHW all the more disappointing, as we need unions to be laser-focused on this election and on the policy battles that will begin as soon as the dust settles in November.
On a more local level, it also matters to us here in California because UHW-W has literally been one of the most reliable and most generous progressive partners in our fights here in California. In its attempt to undermine UHW-W's leadership, the International is actually undermining the progressive movement in California as well.
For a more complete rundown of the conflict you can read SEIU-UHW shop steward Shayne Silva's piece over at Open Left.
(Disclaimer: SEIU-UHW flew me up to San Jose to cover their leadership conference.)

Damage Report: SEIU Leadership Scandals Hurt the Progressive Agenda (+)
by: Shayne Silva
Sat Sep 06, 2008 at 12:54

Over the past several weeks, SEIU – arguably the nation’s most politically powerful union and the most prominent financial patron of the U.S. progressive movement – has been rocked by a series of scandals that call into question the basic integrity of the organization's leadership and threaten many of the progressive causes in which SEIU has become an integral player. The widening web of serious financial improprieties alleged in a stunning series of investigative reports by LA Times writer Paul Pringle, compiled here, involves high ranking officers of SEIU, all of whom are personal protégés and appointees of SEIU President Andy Stern and SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger.
At the heart of these scandals is not the series of corrupt acts uncovered by Pringle, but Stern and Burger’s relentless drive to consolidate decision-making power among a small group of appointed leaders and staff and to eliminate any possible base of political opposition to their direction for the union, regardless of the costs to SEIU members and other working families. These costs include the theft of hard-earned union dues from $9.00 an hour homecare workers, long term reputational damage to SEIU and the labor movement as a whole, and negative consequences for progressive candidates and causes that Stern and Burger purport to champion.
In order to eliminate the most prominent whistleblowers in SEIU and divert attention from the growing scandals engulfing them and their hand-picked leaders all in one move, Stern and Burger announced on the first night of the Democratic Convention that they were calling hearings on September 22nd and 23rd to seek an International Union takeover of United Healthcare Workers - West (UHW). The main pretext for these trusteeship hearings against UHW is a recycled set of charges, already refuted thoroughly before. Labor journalist Steve Early, who has written extensively on Stern's ongoing efforts to suppress UHW's dissent, gives detailed background in a new CounterPunch article cross-posted on OpenLeft.
A politically-motivated trusteeship of UHW would consolidate the anti-democratic trend in SEIU and greatly elevate the threat it poses to labor and the broader progressive movement. The International Union’s top staff and massive resources from across the nation would be bogged down, a month before the November election, in an all out civil war that will compound the damage that’s already been done and seriously weaken us all for years to come. It's time for progressive voices to join UHW members in opposing this disastrous trusteeship threat and call for a peaceful resolution of the dispute within SEIU before it’s too late.

Shayne Silva :: Damage Report: SEIU Leadership Scandals Hurt the Progressive Agenda
By renewing its trusteeship threat against UHW, Stern and Burger seek to obscure the pattern of corruption among their hand-picked appointees. Key articles in Pringle's LA Times series expose their alleged misdeeds:
* Tyrone Freeman, President of SEIU Local 6434, the LA-based homecare and nursing home workers union, was forced to step aside pending investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Attorney¹s Office, the IRS, and the FBI regarding at least $1 million in misspending, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments to firms run by his wife, his mother-in-law and other relatives and friends for questionable services. See LA Times 8/21/08 "Tyrone Freeman steps aside as head of SEIU chapter"
* Rickman Jackson, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan and former Chief of Staff to Tyrone Freeman, was forced to step aside pending an investigation of financial improprieties surrounding his LA home and continued pay from Freeman’s union after he moved to Michigan. See LA Times 8/26/08 "SEIU spending scandal spreads to Michigan"
* Annelle Grajeda, SEIU International Executive Vice President, SEIU California State Council President, and former President of SEIU Local 721, the LA-based public employee union, was forced to step aside pending an investigation of the multiple salaries paid to her long-time (now apparently former) boyfriend, Alejandro Stephens. See LA Times 8/31/08 "3rd California union leader gives up post"
These scandals are wreaking havoc inside SEIU, occupying much of its top elected leadership and staff, and calling into question its capacity to deliver widely publicized commitments of $150 million and half of the union’s staff time to achieve key progressive goals in the November election and its aftermath.
Perhaps more importantly, these scandals are creating prime fodder for Republican talking points that will be used to drag down vital progressive causes, including the drive to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, the fight for national healthcare reform, and the necessary prerequisites to these objectives: the election of Barack Obama to the White House, a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, and a larger and more progressive majority in the U.S. House.
Over the past year, Open Left readers have participated in the increasingly heated public debate over Stern and Burger’s direction, which has come under sharp criticism inside SEIU, elsewhere in the labor movement, and among a growing number of progressive activists and academics. Stern and Burger’s critics argue they are silencing union members’ voices in order to pursue corporate-friendly, top-down deals that sacrifice workers’ and consumers’ interests without producing significant union growth or building the kind of deep organization that can withstand inevitable realignments of interests among the union and its business and political “partners”.
Critics say that this direction has led Stern and Burger to appoint leaders like Freeman, Jackson, and Grajeda to head newly consolidated, giant local unions where rank-and file input is weak, democratic accountability is non-existent, and the only individuals to whom these local leaders are truly accountable – Stern and Burger themselves – are willing to tolerate and cover up corruption in order to maintain strict political control.
Rather than engage in an honest reckoning about the damage their direction has caused SEIU, the labor movement, and progressives more generally, Stern and Burger are now launching a new public relations offensive and falsely positioning themselves as the cavalry riding in to save SEIU members from any and all forces of corruption, when the real problem is the culture of corruption they themselves have created.
Stern and Burger's latest crisis communications move was to announce the creation of an ethics commission charged with establishing new rules of conduct for SEIU officers and staff, but one union democracy advocate whose organization Stern invoked in promoting the initiative was thoroughly incredulous in an interview with the LA Times published in the September 4th story, "SEIU president says he will seek aid from labor reform groups"
“Why does he need a new code of ethics?” said Herman Benson, founder of the Association for Union Democracy, adding in words that might be applied to Stern and Burger as well as their protégés, “People didn't know that what they were doing was wrong? It's preposterous.”
Preposterous indeed, given that the most important ethical questions immediately at stake are, “What did Andy Stern and Anna Burger know and when did they know it?” and “Why did Andy Stern and Anna Burger appoint and promote individuals they knew or should have known were corrupt, regardless of the consequences for SEIU’s members and the progressive movement?”
Ken Paff of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, another leading union reformer whose organization was referenced in SEIU’s press release also balked at SEIU’s cover up, saying the union should have taken action against Freeman’s corruption long ago and asking, “How could they not know?”
As reported earlier in the LA Times story "U.S. investigates L.A.-based union's election," sources have related their knowledge of an SEIU cover up of Freeman’s corruption as long as six years ago. Additionally, top SEIU staffers have been intimately involved in the workings of all of the local unions under scrutiny as part of organizing and bargaining efforts directed by the International Union and the re-organization of local jurisdiction and establishment of new local leadership in both California and Michigan..
The New York Times on September 3rd quoted an e-mail from senior SEIU Justice for Janitors staffer Jono Shaffer (on whom Adrien Brody’s character in the movie “Bread and Roses” was based) writing about the crisis in Local 6434, “I wish I could say this is unbelievable, but for those of us in Southern California, the only surprise is that it took so long to make it to the public.”
Stern and Burger’s plans for the future of SEIU are evident in their renewed efforts to remove the democratically elected leaders of UHW, whose members have led the opposition to their direction and, as a result, have already faced months of aggressive retaliation, including bogus lawsuits, attacks in the press, and millions of dollars in direct mail, phone calls, and SEIU staff work to discredit UHW’s leaders.
SEIU's upcoming trusteeship hearings are based mainly on the charge that UHW set up a non-profit organization, the United Health Care Workers and Patients Education Fund, for the purpose of defending itself against a trusteeship. The facts are that the fund was set up as a financial vehicle in which, ultimately, union dues could be combined with outside contributions to support a potential healthcare ballot initiative, to pursue the objectives of the union’s unprecedented 2008 contract campaign, to promote UHW’s vision of member-led democratic unionism, and to support other public education efforts on behalf of healthcare workers and consumers. UHW months ago provided SEIU with a full accounting of the expenditures of the fund, which has long since been disbanded, and no question has been raised of any self-dealing or use of union dues for impermissible purposes.
SEIU’s main claim is that the fund was actually created to set aside financial resources that would remain under the control of UHW’s current leaders even in the event of a trusteeship. However, since the fund’s Board of Directors was composed solely of UHW Executive Board members, its assets could not have escaped the reach of a trustee. In the event of a lawful trusteeship, these assets would have been found to be union property and placed under the trustee’s control.
SEIU also places great weight behind the argument that a significant portion of the fund’s resources were transferred to it from the union a week after the legislative healthcare reform package we had hoped to place on the ballot died in the California State Senate. Regrettably, the Washington attorneys and spin doctors who cooked up this attack display their ignorance of the fact that talks continued between the union, key healthcare providers, and elected officials about the possibility of reformulating a healthcare initiative that we could jointly petition onto the ballot after the date of the money transfer.
Interestingly, SEIU’s false charge itself highlights a challenge for union reformers that Herman Benson calls, “a Catch-22 dilemma: the local in effect is threatened with a trusteeship for taking steps to defend itself against the imposition of a trusteeship,” a trusteeship that Benson further characterizes as being threatened, “for politically repressive objectives,” the most egregious of which was to move 65,000 homecare and nursing home workers out of UHW against their will into a long term care union that Tyrone Freeman was slated to lead.
SEIU’s newer and lesser charges against UHW include:
* a false claim that $500,000 was improperly set aside in trust to pay UHW Leaders’ legal fees, although the trust is constructed specifically so that the funds would remain at the disposal of the local’s lawful leaders, including an SEIU trustee if a lawful trusteeship were imposed;
* a false claim that UHW’s communication with other SEIU leaders to provide them our perspective on the scandals and struggles within our union – after months of our members receiving harshly negative communications attacking UHW leaders from the International Union and local unions across the country – constitutes unlawful use of SEIU’s proprietary data; and
* a false claim that two rank-and-file UHW leaders democratically voted out of their previous facility-level leadership positions by their co-workers on their own initiative were somehow subject to retaliation from UHW’s top officers.
For the moment, Stern and Burger appear determined to go forward with placing UHW in trusteeship, regardless of the facts (and regardless of their claims and those of their top staff to the contrary only several weeks ago). Like the worst employers in an anti-union campaign, they know very well that as a matter of law, it is easier for them to break UHW now and take a slap
on the wrist later, if at all.
Thankfully, the battle for democratic control of UHW rests largely in the hands of UHW members and their supporters.
In June, 7,000 UHW homecare members, consumers and families rallied across the state against Governor Schwarzenegger’s threats to homecare services and Stern and Burger’s efforts to move them out of UHW against their will. Last month, 6,000 UHW members protested at an SEIU California Long Term Care Jurisdictional Hearing called to take next steps in dismantling the local. This Sunday, 4,000 UHW members will rally for one statewide healthcare union at the local’s annual Leadership Conference in San Jose. Thousands more UHW members can be expected to mobilize for the trusteeship proceedings, whose location remains secret, a hallmark of the anti-democratic style that has become the norm in SEIU. Thousands more still, indeed the vast majority of UHW members, will make their voices heard in the weeks ahead, insisting that their union remain under their control, and pledging their commitment to keep up the fight.
We ask our fellow progressives of good conscience to join us.
Shayne Silva
Psychiatric Technician, Alta Bates
§SEIU members angry at Stern
by repost Sunday Sep 7th, 2008 6:55 AM
4,000 California healthcare workers marched against a threatened trusteeship of their Local. Members are angry to the president Andy Stern
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Not Many Crooks Left?Stop Rigged ConventionsMonday Sep 8th, 2008 2:35 PM
Holway and Segat next?Farley OsgoodMonday Sep 8th, 2008 1:28 AM
Ally with Sal Rosseli but watch your back Once burned Sunday Sep 7th, 2008 11:18 PM
FBI WATCHmsfreehSunday Sep 7th, 2008 10:33 AM
This affects all of US/Canadian Labor Brendan Sunday Sep 7th, 2008 9:11 AM
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