The Wall Street Journal‘s Alan Murray has a great column this morning shedding some light on the motivations and machinations of SEIU president Andy Stern, who “may be the most perceptive, peripatetic and puzzling labor leader in the world today.” There’s plenty of important information to glean from the article if you want to understand where union bosses are heading.
Murray notes the new style of tactics, which is to pressure companies and expect a big settlement:
His effort to blaze a new trail appears to be modeled less on labor leaders of the past than on a civil-rights leader: Jesse Jackson. Their common tactic: Attack first, then engage — with a hand out for the ultimate payoff.
For some on the receiving end, this feels like a shakedown, though none of the private-equity leaders I spoke with will say so on the record.
Murray then turns to an interesting bit of the-voices-made-me-do-it logic from Stern, who says that union bosses would behave better if only mean ol’ employers would kowtow a bit better:
But Mr. Stern is unapologetic. Indeed, he blames business for encouraging labor to behave badly. “They’ve trained us wrongly,” he says. “We tend to get ignored or caricatured, and sent to the human-resources department when we call. The CEO says, ‘Will someone take care of these guys?’ Not until we do something they find ‘unfair’ will they talk to us.”
“It’s like your children,” he adds. “If they behave and get no reaction, then they’ll cry.”
It certainly feels sometimes as if “it’s like your children.” Of course, Stern is revered/loathed for finding a new way of labor and management co-existing. But Murray gets to the heart of the matter:
Mr. Stern says he is trying to find a new way for labor to engage with business. “We get it. We understand,” he says. “All this global competition means America needs a new economic plan. We have a 20th century model of employment relationships in a global economy.” But those who have met with him say Mr. Stern mainly wants one thing: more members.
I supplied the emphasis because it’s worth noting: the people who know him know Stern is all about adding more members, which equals more power.
The record certainly bears that out. Stern is a leading advocate for ending secret ballot elections for employees deciding to join a union — because he knows that his preferred process allows union organizers to harass, intimidate and confuse employees during “card check” organizing drives. His own union was recently busted by the federal government for bad organizing practices.