It appears that the SEIU is the likely winner of its protracted battle with the National Union of Health Workers over organizing home health care workers in Fresno, CA. Randy Shaw, a notable pro-labor activist, reports some surprising details about the brutal race that exhibited the SEIU’s extensive resources and bruising tactics.
The SEIU reportedly turned out 900 (!) organizers for roughly 10,000 health workers:
The chief reason is an unexpectedly high voter turnout, likely caused by SEIU’s delegation of 900 outreach workers – likely the largest per worker in labor movement history, considering that only 10,000 are eligible to vote.
The SEIU also spent an exorbitant amount of money on the organizing campaign:
SEIU has reportedly spent $200,000 a day on its massive staff. When television ads, mailers, and other costs are included, NUHW estimates SEIU’s has spent as much as $10 million on the entire campaign (in contrast, NUHW had little funds and its 150 plus Fresno outreach team is primarily volunteer).
And accounts of SEIU intimidation and vandalism have already been documented in the media.
Shaw openly wonders what direction the SEIU will take the labor movement after its apparent victory in Fresno. Not that this comes as a surprise, but Shaw expresses concern that an emboldened SEIU will only exacerbate labor relations by continuing its much publicized fight with UNITE HERE.
On June 4, Stern issued a public letter to “The American Labor Movement” stating that if SEIU’s battle with UNITE HERE is not resolved by the end of June, “we are prepared to respond vigorously” to UNITE HERE and “defend our union.” The letter’s confrontational tone and its questionable accusations that UNITE HERE rather than SEIU started the fight undercut Stern’s stated desire for peace, as did his demand that UNITE HERE accept binding arbitration of all outstanding issues.”
Based on the SEIU’s executive board’s actions, Shaw notes that it doesn’t appear the SEIU plans on mending relations with UNITE HERE anytime soon:
In a possible sign that SEIU is moving in this direction, last week the union’s Executive Board elected two new Executive Vice-Presidents: Director of Property Services Mitch Ackerman and former UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor. This does not bode well for labor peace. It was Raynor’s dispute with UNITE HERE that got SEIU involved in the fight, while Ackerman is reported to be among the SEIU leaders aggressively pushing to raid UNITE HERE jurisdictions.
Shaw, to be expected, holds out hope that the SEIU will not furthe escalate its conflict with UNITE HERE. But with the SEIU’s open display of aggression and UNITE HERE’s John Wilhelm’s defiant opposition to Andy Stern’s call for binding arbitration, it’s unlikely that this will end anytime soon.