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Indybay Feature

There is a Path to Peace

by John Wilhelm
Letter to Andy Stern, president of SEIU
June 15, 2009

To: Andy Stern

From: John W. Wilhelm, President


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( 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

Edgar Romney

Related Categories: Central Valley | Labor & Workers
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Comments (Hide Comments)
by On donner, on blitzen
It must be wonderful to be John Wilhelm. A man who creates his own reality with such certitude and who then surrounds himself with followers who dig up and spread the necessary "facts" to help guide the desired narrative, must be happy indeed. A man who views EFCA only as a license to raid and then runs a mascarade of a campaign for it... Blame it all on Andy Stern, yeah that'll do it.
by the runaway pancake
It's great to be Andy Stern! A corrupt union boss with a legion of minions & thugs to do his bidding. Who cares about EFCA? It's not Andy and his Change That (doesn't) Work idea.

Will Andy listen to John? Only if John is rolling over.

by r.king
i'm really shocked by how horrible the tone of this letter is. is the path to peace making flaming accusations and snarky comments? i doubt it. i guess its easy for people like wilhelm to keep the fight going. his contract isn't up for renewal and he doesn't have grievances that arent being filed. but then again, he never recognized a union for his workers.
by wait a second
John's comparing this fight to a burglary requires some serious mental gymnastics!

How about this for a better analogy?

HERE, fresh on the heels of federal trusteeship and mismanagement is nearly bankrupt... They identify UNITE's large assets in a dwindling industry as ripe for the picking, and in the words of John Wilhelm to the HERE membership as a justification for a merger, "They've got a lot more money than we do!" Right before the merger, they real quick add a bunch of members to their executive board, so that they have a larger representation on the combined board. Now they just have to wait out the dysfunctional merger for a few years until the next convention, when they can take over the board entirely and totally acquire the bank and real estate assets that garment workers saved for a century to build.

Wilhelm thinks that because of 4 years of a "merger" where they showed absolutely zero interest in actually co-operating on anything, that gives him the right to burgle the bank from all the garment workers and retirees.
by Di
John fails to mention that he and his cohorts contributed nothing to the assetts of UNITE HERE, only foolishly threw away multiple millions on their own ego driven organizing failures. The 10 year plan of organizing, so ridiculous to imagine that works. Wonder what union they'll try to merge with next after they bankrupt UNITE HERE like they did HERE.
by Didn't Drink the Kool-Aid
The only context in which Wilhelm's rantings make sense at this point is that after 5 years of a merger, he feels entitled to every single last penny of the former UNITE's resources, along with the power and prerogative to eliminate every last element of UNITE culture: staff, practices and staff union all while alienating and exploiting it's membership with the calculating cruelty of a parasite. When that hasn't worked out, he has employed Rove-ian double-speak to exploit the labor left's justifiable anger with certain actions of SEIU. It's getting tired, reading HERE nonsense about SEIU "raids," it's political alliance with NUHW - all while knowing how the former HERE conducts itself with all the democracy of a Gitmo cell cleaning. Orwellian doesn't begin to describe it -- how it is that progressives support an organization who's organizing model is based off of a system of mental brainwashing, verbal harrassment and intense personal loyalty above all else is a mystery of the ages. When's someone gonna blow the lid off this charade?
by Indybay Reader
Please don't use the Indybay comment threads as a venue for your pre-packaged talking points. It doesn't add to the debate, and it doesn't help anyone understand this issue. I'm tired of reading the same old tired talking points you've been posting as comments wherever there's an article about the UNITE HERE-SEIU dispute.

By the way, you should re-think those talking points. I think it's telling that Wilhelm seems most concerned about jurisdiction (i.e. actually organizing workers and creating power in an industry) and all y'all seem to talk about are assets and red-baiting allegations of brainwashing.
by Manuel Nieves
Debe de ser difícil para J. Wilhem dejar que miembros de una unión se expresen en contra de la dejadez de un movimiento sindical. Antes, HERE no era nada. Tuvo cinco años para desarrollar programas de organización en diferentes industrias, no obstante, su filosofía basada en el lavado de cerebro de su personal, abuso verbal y hasta sicológico, ha sido lo que lo ha mantenido en su silla presidencial por tanto tiempo. Su forma de trabajar está basada en algún Periodo Medieval. Por suerte contamos con democracia para decidir nuestro futuro.
by on the talking points
I don't get how the HERE brainwashing cult-like behavior is somehow really a part of left politics and criticism of same is red-baiting. Seems to me this stuff could be married to white supremacy or whatever just as easily as Maoism. It's basic authoritarian manipulative bullshit that exploits people's trauma and weaknesses for political gain. Seems like movements all of the ideological map have done that in the past, but they were all bad news.
by sfhotelworker
If SEIU is the great hope for the labor movement we're doomed. With their cozy corporate relations they're really building a house of cards - not a union. They too often now bargain or better yet 'prepose' contracts for workers with no real involvement from those workers. A weak position. Unite Here actually involves workers. Here in San Francisco our local won an amazing 2004-2006 contract fight with the support of other locals, other unions, and many many allies. Our workers not only got a great contract with many key improvements but we also won future organizing rights at new hotels in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Without the SEIU-style begging the bosses or worse. Empower the workers.
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