It goes without saying that SEIU has helped improve the lives of many workers, and despite the IU's talking points reflected in these letters, Max Fraser’s article did not dispute this in the slightest. Having spent nearly a quarter-century working in SEIU from Colorado to California, I am personally familiar with several of these members’ stories: helping to lead Justice for Janitors from its very first campaign; organizing and representing mental health staff at MHCD; and staffing Local 2028 before it morphed into 221. But the obvious fact that SEIU and other unions have played a major role in workplace and even global justice does not excuse the grotesque abuses of power by Stern, Henry, Hudson and the rest of the SEIU’s leadership, or the painful damage done to hundreds of thousands of other members, the union overall and the progressive movement as a whole.
Not a word of Fraser’s specific critique of the state of the once much stronger and more honorable SEIU was challenged in any of these letters. Isn’t your loyalty best placed with the concerns of all members—and even the broader movement we are a part of—instead of limiting it to International leaders and their decisions regardless of the harm they have done to others because you have not personally been injured? Even with any notion of solidarity aside, you might consider that spending almost $100 million of your dues to raid other unions, silence legitimate dissent and declare war on many of your fellow members does actually weaken the union and harm you. Does the sister from Local 221 think that there is no legitimate debate to be had over creating mega-locals with minimal input from members and then have the IU appoint "leaders” like your last two? You must be aware that new elections have just been won after a long fight from fellow rank-and-filers to prevent your last president—a corporate lawyer with zero labor experience whom Stern appointed after meeting her at a party—from stealing her first actual election and then running off once the jig was up with the kind of $100K golden parachute corporate types think they are entitled to even when they screw up. While it is gratifying to read that SEIU cheeses spent three days coming up with another plan, I would suggest to EVP Hudson that it might actually be easier to work with other unions if you’re not raiding their members, robbing their treasuries and sowing division and disruption amidst the whole movement. Campaigns for accountability and justice from the corporate elite might just be enhanced by eliminating that nasty culture of cutting deals behind workers’ backs with some of these very same characters. These and other indefensible actions have reduced SEIU from a leader to an outcast in the house of labor, and among many progressives who lament the opportunities our movement lost while dealing with the wreckage caused by our biggest union “going rogue” and betraying the most basic ethical standards the best of our movement died for.
I am proud of the work done for nearly four decades with remarkable rank-and-file members, dedicated staffers, and community allies in many campaigns which changed the lives of people who work for a living, their families and the global community. But I ask these members: Does any improvement in your life make it acceptable to rig elections, silence dissent or collaborate with bosses without workers’ consent or even knowledge? Is it OK with you to call the boss and even the cops on fellow workers who have put it on the line for years to build SEIU, but do not agree with some of the dictates of the International? Do workers in other unions have the right to face that uphill climb with their employers to build power to organize and negotiate, without having the country’s biggest union hanging on their backs to sabotage their rights and sacrifices?
It is my hope that you recognize these as rhetorical questions, do a little research and respectfully reconsider your position.
Jun 19 2010 - 8:26pm