Community Interview: Stern's Responses

Ok, I had time to get Andy's answers to most of your questions.  I have a lot of video, so I'm going to put responses up in batches of three over the next few days.  I really enjoy getting your questions, which are pretty tough, and asking them on your behalf.  David Donnelly gets the first question, because he was the one who asked me to put Andy on video answering his public policy question.  

A few administrative points - if you can't watch these video clips, it's probably because they are still uploading to Youtube.  Wait a minute or so and try again.  Also, if anyone has a bit of time and would transcribe one or several or these answers and stick the transcriptions in the comments, that would be really helpful to MyDD readers who are on dial-up.  None of these answers are longer than one minute so it shouldn't take much time at all.

Public Financing

Do you support public financing and the bill that Dick Durbin is going to introduce?

Accountability Within Unions

Here's one from yitbos96bb :

What kind of checks and balances do you place on local union leaders to keep them from giving sweetheart deals to management instead of fighting for the working rights of local members as has been seen in the past by some local officials of other unions?

I accidentally screwed up and forgot to ask him the second part of the question, which was this: "When negotiating a deal, do you only try to look out your members, or do you attempt to create a deal that is beneficial to both management and union members?"

I'll answer it based on spending the last three days traveling with Stern and meeting SEIU officials.  Andy feels very strongly that putting the companies SEIU negotiates with at a competitive disadvantage is a very bad idea.  Every local union leader I've talked to over this trip echoes this idea, talking of collaboration and making their workplace more efficient.  You should read 'A Country that Works', which he just wrote.  Cathy Glasson, President of Local 199 in Iowa, has a great and short video on this point.

Supporting Republicans in New York State

This next question was from John Nicosia:

I would ask why the SEIU, and other unions in general, support the Republican Party on occasion.  Specifically, they are a huge donor to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in New York State, with there money helping in the special election coming up next week.  How does that promote union interests when the Republican Party, both in NY and outside, usually drag their feet on workers issues if not outright working against them?

Tags: Andy Stern, Labor, public financing, SEIU (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

Here's SEIU at work in New York:

More Evidence of Rot

From the New York Daily News:


Westchester goes Dixie


Friday, November 10th, 2006


Welcome to Westchester County, the Deep South of New York State.

That's the message supporters of powerful Republican State Sen. Nick Spano gave to hundreds of black and Hispanic Westchester residents on Election Day with an ugly campaign of voter intimidation at several polling sites.


"For most of the day, it felt like I was in the South," said one Democratic Party lawyer.


....


Stewart-Cousins, Westchester's best-known black leader, was ahead by more than 2,100 votes. Spano, however, has refused to concede. He is clinging to the hope that a tally of absentee and affidavit ballots will erase his opponent's lead - one that withstood questionable tactics on Election Day.

The worst example was seen at the Police Athletic League gymnasium on North Broadway in Yonkers, a largely minority neighborhood.

A large throng of Republican volunteers, many of them wearing Yonkers Fire Department shirts and union caps, gathered inside the polling place and repeatedly challenged the signatures of many of those coming in to vote, said Frank Streng, a White Plains attorney who visited the North Broadway site in the late afternoon as a Democratic Party legal monitor.


The widespread challenges led to long lines of angry black voters. Eventually, Streng convinced police and county election officials to show up and reduce the number of Republican poll-watchers. The law allows only three per election district.


....


Ironically, it was the Spano campaign, not Stewart-Cousins, that benefitted from significant Election Day help from New York City outsiders.


That help came from Local 1199/SEIU, the powerful hospital workers union headed by Dennis Rivera. Rivera dispatched scores of his members to work the polls for Spano and threw his union's enormous resources behind him.


This was all done to help Rivera's close friend, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the main politician in Albany who makes sure every year when the state budget is approved that the needs of 1199 and the city's hospital executives are met.


The Spano campaign has become the clearest example of how far 1199 has wandered from its rich legacy of championing civil rights.


The favorite union of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has gradually turned into just another deal-cutting political machine. Its charismatic leader, once the shining prince of this city's labor movement, has turned into just another political boss.


And this week came the lowest point of all.

The leaders of this union of mostly black and Hispanic workers did everything they could to defeat a progressive black woman Democratic candidate in Westchester. They did so even as their Republican allies in that race were intimidating black voters.


And despite all that, Stewart-Cousins was still leading in the count in the Deep South of Westchester.

this last cycle was so surreal. i would see SEIU members out canvassing for john hall one weekend and nick spano the next. many of the rank and file members were somewhat dismayed at this. one even told me that working for spano made her "feel dirty".

i'm a fan of the national organization, but the new york state SEIU is a tool of some pretty awful people. they are actively perpetuating a system that exists solely to perpetuate itself. sure the state senate throws them scraps, but they also preside over a regime that arguably makes life much more difficult for the rank and file. hell, just ask a member who owns a home how they feel about their property tax bills over the past 8 years or so.

color me less than impressed with stern's all too brief answer to john's question.

as to "why shouldn't they support" the status quo in albany, they plainly obvious reasons are too numerous to count.

at least we'll soon be rid of dennis rivera who is leaving to join the national. i think we are definitely getting the better end of that deal.

by lipris 2007-01-31 01:15PM | 0 recs
You forgot...

...that SEIU is actively working against the Dem candidate in the special election here in New York on February 6th. That's right, SEIU is out there actively working for an anti-choice wingnut.

So no, I really don't think they should be given this kind of glossy press. It may be otherwise in other parts of the country, but the New York SEIU is pretty much a pillar of reaction. Sorry.

by MBNYC 2007-01-31 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

i've enjoyed the short video clips you've posted, but it would be great to get more detail and more information than can fit in the 30 seconds or so that most of these clips last.

by corn dog 2007-01-31 03:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

I suppose the NYS Republican party isn't close the the national Republican party, but when it comes to a choice between the two parties, SEIU (and all unions, including my parent's teachers unions) all support the Republican incumbents over the more progressive, labor-friendlier Democrats.  Supporting them may keep the shrinking NYS Republican Party more to the left, but I don't think it helps having them in control of the State Senate.  

It seems like they are just hedging their bets, knowing that the Republican has a good chance of winning (especially without union help), and would rather play it safe and have a friendly Republican.

What pisses me off is when SEIU helps build up the farm team for the Republicans in congress.  Congressional Democrats from NY can be just as odious as national Republicans (Peter King NY3, for example), and the leadership they support is worse.  Cutting the support of the State Senate Republicans would tear the party out by the roots, and help labor, NYS, and the country.  While Stern isn't wrong, it isn't the best long-term solution for their organization or New York.

by John Nicosia 2007-01-31 03:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

Nice Job Matt.  Thanks for getting my questions answered!

by yitbos96bb 2007-01-31 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

Thanks, Matt, for doing this -- not simply on the public financing question, but the whole conversation you've brought together. As Andy Stern is out having a conversation, you're able to bring it -- and broaden it -- to visitors here. It's a great service.

While it hasn't been finalized and introduced yet, Sen. Durbin's bill will basically to do for Senate races what the Clean Elections laws do in Maine, Arizona and elsewhere. These are policies that are not just ideas -- they actually work in practice. Stern promotes them as shining examples of how to reduce the role of private money in campaigns in his recent book.

by David Donnelly 2007-01-31 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Community Interview: Stern's Responses

Thanks for traveling with Stern and covering some of what SEIU is doing. I can understand the dismay of NY Democratic partisans that SEIU does not automatically fall lockstep behind every Democratic candidate. But if you look at the Long Island Special Election next week, you'll notice several things- it's not just SEIU, but AFSCME -both DC 37 and CSEA, and the NY State Nurses Association, and....the list goes on-supporting the GOP nominee. Why would SEIU and AFSCME- the two largest and most effective donors and supporters of last November's Democratic surge nationwide - and in NY- our 3 seat congressional pickup-be backing the GOP nominee?  Some sort of Albany exceptionalism? No- they support GOPers when it will help their own members interest.

In Albany, it matters less the candidates individual characteristics, as NY has the most top down legislature in the country. It's the only place I know where the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee has no real power- since the Speaker picks his staff or the Senate Finance Chair either. . In Albany, there are 3 people - the Gov, the Speaker, and the Senate President who control everything- the Comptroller has a small chunk of power as well.

And GOP Senate Prez Bruno has been very supportive of a lot of labor's agenda for working families- even repeatedly standing up to fellow GOPer Gov. Pataki. And not just for small procedural items- an extra billion and a half into home care- means a real change for the lives of workers who had been making $8 or 9 an hour and no health care coverage in NYC. Every organization I know stays with their allies. That's why they're sticking with the Senate Republicans. If the Democrat wins in the Special- well that's OK- I'm sure he's a stand up guy, but SEIU 1199 and PEF are right to support their allies

You also need to know , SEIU ( and the same for AFSCME and the Nurses, and the Teachers, etc) has hundreds of thousands of members who are registered Republicans. They want to see their union fighting for a working families agenda in their party too, and not just going straight Democratic.

by Skipster 2007-02-01 04:14AM | 0 recs

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