Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

NYTimes: “Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Time”

The New York Times has a good article summarizing labor’s nasty infighting, which I have covered over the past few months. It’s worth reading in order to get a broader perspective on how extensive the union disputes have been.

The article makes it clear that much of the conflict stems from, like the union push for EFCA, a desire for power:

For the most part, the battles don’t involve grand philosophical differences, as many labor union disputes have in the past. Instead, they often reflect power struggles, with some unions jockeying to take others’ members at a time when unions are having a hard time gaining members at companies that are not organized.

The article highlights the numerous skirmishes, battles, and outright wars that unions have fought against each other:

The feuding has taken many forms: intraunion, between unions and by several unions joining forces against another union.

Obviously, the UNITE HERE civil war comes to mind:

For instance, five years after the nation’s main apparel union merged with the hotel and restaurant employees’ union, the combined union, Unite Here, erupted into a civil war. The apparel workers’ president, Bruce S. Raynor, declared the merger a failure and asked for a divorce, saying “we can’t be held captive by a bunch of thugs.” The merger was supposed to produce more organizing, but he complained that it was producing less, despite stepped-up spending on organizing.

Opposing the divorce, the head of the hotel workers’ side, John W. Wilhelm, insisted that the merger was a success and lambasted Mr. Raynor, asserting he wanted to undo the merger because he was a dictator who was losing a power struggle.

With Mr. Wilhelm blocking a split, more than 100,000 members of Unite Here broke away and merged into the Service Employees International Union. Soon the service employees were spending millions to persuade members of Unite Here to quit and join them. And soon after that, Mr. Wilhelm was accusing the service employees of a heinous labor sin, raiding another union to steal members.

And then there is the SEIU battle against the NUHW in California, where the SEIU sent more than 500 organizers to squeeze out a 233-vote margin win against the dissident union:

Mr. Stern is also engaged in an all-out battle with Sal Rosselli, the former president of a union local representing 140,000 health care workers in Northern California. After Mr. Stern ousted him and other leaders, accusing them of financial misconduct and defying the parent union, they founded a rival union. Denying any wrongdoing, they said they were expelled because they were fierce critics of Mr. Stern.

This spring, the service employees dispatched more than 500 allies to Fresno, Calif., at great expense, to help persuade 10,000 home care workers there not to join the rival union. By a narrow 233-vote margin, they agreed to remain in the service employees. Now come similar secession battles in San Francisco and Sacramento.

And of course, who could forget the other labor bosses’ choice words for Andy Stern and the SEIU? Based on this article, it appears the SEIU has managed to find itself in the middle of almost every union conflict:

“The S.E.I.U. is trying to hijack our union,” Mr. Wilhelm said. At the Unite Here convention last week, Mr. McEntee denounced the service employees for “piracy,” and Vincent J. Giblin, president of the operating engineers, called Mr. Stern, of the service union, the “Darth Vader of the labor movement.”

“Every division in the labor movement seems to have Andy Stern’s fingerprints on it,” said Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers. “Andy ought to start working for unity and not division.”

With the level of attacks, smears, and tactics we’ve seen from the unions fighting amongst themselves, no wonder Americans won’t support EFCA. Why would anyone want to make it easier to join a union if this is what their dues from their hard-earned paychecks would go towards?

Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsEFACNewsSEIUUNITE HERE