Stern diverts SEIU troops from election to crush union dissent

Sources within SEIU International expose plan by President Andy Stern to divert hundreds of staffers away from November election to prop up Stern's illegal trusteeship of UHW-West.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports.

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The Fight For United Healthcare Workers West

I'm at the San Jose Convention Center at the annual SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West leadership conference. You thought unity was the theme of the Democratic convention? This conference gave it a serious run for its money. When I was at the SEIU convention in Puerto Rico, my fellow bloggers and I wrote briefly about the conflict brewing between the international and this 150,000 strong California-based healthcare worker local but since then it has escalated and UHW-W intends to fight back.

On August 25 SEIU President Andy Stern announced a trusteeship hearing on whether SEIU should appoint a trustee to "take charge and control of the affairs of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West and a trusteeship imposed over UHW-W." The hearing is to be held Sept. 26 & 27 somewhere in Northern California.

The timing is curious, coming on the heels of allegations of corruption on the part of Tyrone Freeman, head of another California healthcare workers local and a Stern appointee; it also came mere days before UHW-W's leadership conference and I can tell you from being here, if the international wants a fight, they found one.

The conference was attended by more than 2000 elected UHW-W workplace leaders and the sense of purpose and resolve among them is palpable. They are motivated, they are unified and as one woman addressing the convention put it:

The giant is awake and we are pissed.

The membership here unanimously passed a resolution vowing to fight the trusteeship:

Let it be resolved that we will fight to ensure that UHW members maintain full control of our union and oppose any attempts to unlawfully trustee our local and place it under the watch of appointed leaders from Washington, DC for purely political reasons; and

Let is be further resolved that UHW will fight to keep our members united in one statewide healthcare workers union and will use all available means, including mobilizing our 150,000 members to support our union and directing our President and Officers to take all appropriate actions including deploying the necessary resources, staff, and other means to carry out this resolution.

A good 4000 or so also marched through downtown San Jose and then held a rally, waving signs reading "We built this union and it's ours" and "Our union, our voice." They feel that Stern, with his threat of a trusteeship, wants to weaken their power by trying to divide their membership. No one here intends to let that happen.

In the short term, that fight entails deploying members to DC to meet with all 53 members of California's congressional delegation. How many of the 53 will actually meet with UHW's members is unclear, of course, but they intend to try. In addition, leadership here repeatedly rallied the crowd of 2000 to take off work on Sept. 26 & 27 to attend the trusteeship hearing and bring 10 co-workers with them. They want to overwhelm the international with 20,000 plus to let them know they're not going down without a fight. There is a sense from people I've spoken to that the trusteeship is probably inevitable; they're calling the hearing a "kangaroo court." But at the same time members are saying quite simply "We won't go", referring to their refusal to be taken from their union without their say.

In the longer term, what UHW-W hopes to achieve is 1. to build one statewide healthcare workers union in California; and 2. to, as they put it, "reform SEIU into a democratic union with leadership accountable to its members." At the heart of this conflict, it's really union democracy that people are fighting to preserve.

Robert at calitics nails why this matters for all of us.

Whatever the outcome, there is a strong commitment to democracy among the 2,000 members here - democracy in the workplace, democracy in their union, democracy in their nation. Despite the internal politics that is an extremely positive sign. The labor movement has been at the forefront of social democratic politics in this country for over 100 years. When labor is strong, progressive politics are strong. Which makes the SEIU's efforts to trustee UHW all the more disappointing, as we need unions to be laser-focused on this election and on the policy battles that will begin as soon as the dust settles in November.

On a more local level, it also matters to us here in California because UHW-W has literally been one of the most reliable and most generous progressive partners in our fights here in California. In its attempt to undermine UHW-W's leadership, the International is actually undermining the progressive movement in California as well.

For a more complete rundown of the conflict you can read SEIU-UHW shop steward Shayne Silva's piece over at Open Left.

(Disclaimer: SEIU-UHW flew me up to San Jose to cover their leadership conference.)

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SEIU's Take Back Labor Day Concert

Going on right now in St. Paul, and it's got a pretty great line-up: Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Mos Def, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, The Pharcyde, and Atmosphere.

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Third SEIU leader tied to Stern forced to step down in widening scandal

The LA Times reports:

The Service Employees International Union's top California officer has taken a leave of absence, and her former boyfriend has been ordered to return tens of thousands of dollars he received from the state council and Los Angeles local that she heads.

Annelle Grajeda is the third major SEIU leader to step aside following reports in The Times about the union's financial practices. The SEIU acknowledged Saturday that Grajeda was on leave as president of the L.A. local and the union's state council, and as an executive vice president of the national organization, because of allegations that she was improperly involved in the payments.

Read the whole story at

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SEIU corruption scandal spreads as Stern escalates attacks on opposition

The LA Times reports that yet another SEIU leader has been implicated in the widening corruption scandal surrounding Andy Stern has been forced to step down. This time, the Michigan SEIU local is involved.

SEIU spending scandal spreads to Michigan

Rickman Jackson, former official in Los Angeles chapter, takes leave of absence from Michigan local. Action comes after Times reports of payments to firms owned by L.A. leader's family

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 26, 2008

A spending scandal at California's largest union local spread to a second state Monday as the head of the union's leading Michigan group stepped aside because of a widening financial inquiry.

The Service Employees International Union said that Rickman Jackson, who served as chief of staff at the Los Angeles organization, has taken a leave of absence from its biggest Michigan local less than a week after the president of the Los Angeles chapter relinquished his post.

Both departures followed reports in The Times that the local and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of its president, Tyrone Freeman, and spent similar sums on a Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse, a Beverly Hills cigar lounge and a Hollywood talent agency.

The Times also disclosed that a housing corporation Freeman helped launch used the address of a Bell Gardens home that property records show is owned by Jackson. Freeman, the housing corporation and Jackson have declined to say whether he was paid for any use of his residence.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette would not say Monday whether the union's inquiry into Jackson's activities is focused on his home and the housing corporation. The corporation did not receive the tax-exempt status it sought and lost its right to do business in California for a time. Freeman and Jackson were appointed by SEIU President Andy Stern, one of the country's most influential labor leaders.

Complete story at union26-2008aug26,0,5532516.story

The LA Times also reports an escalation in Stern's drive to crush all opposition to his centralized authoritarian control of the union. Stern has announced plans to trustee the 150,000 member United Healthcare Workers West SEIU local, which has lead the democratic resistance inside SEIU.

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