Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Documents: SEIU’s Stern Sells Out Members

The SF Weekly‘s Matt Smith is not happy with SEIU president Andy Stern. Smith, a hearty union supporter, complains that “Stern has managed to get journalists to look past possible downsides of his new labor paradigm by offering up a compelling story line, where a labor leader is impelled by the death of his daughter to become courageous, and to make a real stamp on the world.” In a lengthy and well-researched piece filled with internal SEIU documents (apparently made public by the lefty Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights), Smith alleges that the union boss is willing to cut deals with companies that actually hurt his new members. Smith writes:

However, there’s another trove of literature describing the recent history of Stern’s SEIU, one that’s quite different than the Cassie-focused genre popular in newsstands and on bookshelves. It’s contained in secret for-top-union-officials-eyes-only contracts, memos, lobbying agreements, and analysis reports obtained from various sources by SF Weekly. They illustrate the details of a sweetheart deal between the SEIU and California nursing home companies that impair, rather than empower, workers and patients, while inflating dues-paying union ranks.

These documents suggest Stern’s post-Cassie leadership of the SEIU shares little in common with Martin Luther King, and doesn’t involve much real innovation. Instead, it’s merely a re-hash of the sort of sweetheart company-union labor deals that have marred the reputation of trade unionism throughout history. It has involved trading away workers’ free-speech rights, selling out their ability to improve working conditions, and relinquishing their capability to improve pay and benefits, in order to expand the SEIU’s and Stern’s own power.

These deals allowed SEIU access to more employees’ paychecks, while flexing lobbying muscle that sent taxpayer money to the nursing homes’ bottom lines. Smith highlights one internal SEIU report:

The report, titled “The California Alliance Agreement: Lessons Learned in Moving Forward,” suggests that the agreement resulted in subsidies that fattened nursing home profits, and handcuffed workers, while inhibiting the union’s chances at ever negotiating legitimate labor contracts that truly enhanced workers’ lives.

It’s worth the time to read the whole thing. Go now.

Categories: UFCW