UnionMaine

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SEIU convention report

I was a delegate to the 2008 Justice for All, SEIU convention and there are at least two completely opposite views of what happened.

One view says that Union Democracy triumphed and the other claims that this is the biggest power grab in Union history since Jimmy Hoffa.

The SEIU changed its constitution in Puerto Rico. Yes, locals will be sending more money to union headquarters in D.C. Is this a power grab or will SEIU Leaders use the cash to run a campaign to elect Barack Obama president and send pro-union lawmakers to Congress?

No matter whether you think this is a power grab or the smartest move since the invention of the wheel, Union Leaders will use the money to elect a labor friendly government and pass labor friendly laws. Whether they want power or justice for all they know only a labor friendly government will allow the growth of Unions. No matter what your take on it, Andy Stern is too smart not to do exactly as he claimed. We can debate Andy’s motives but his goals are the same as ours, better jobs and representation locally and in Congress.

The cash will not go to heavily unionized states because they will already be voting Democrat. The cash will move to swing states like Florida and Michigan where the extra money may make the biggest difference. Remember we have suffered eight years of George Bush for the lack of a handful of votes in Florida.

International President Andy Stern’s agenda at the 2008 convention, called “Justice for All” will consolidate bargaining and organizing efforts at the national level. This will possibly limit the power of local unions but at the same time give the union greater leverage with multi-state or international employers.

Just imagine a heavily unionized Maine, where tens of thousands of SEIU brothers and sisters would tell the legislature they needed to treat SEIU employees fairly or go home.

UHW, United Health Care West opposed Stern’s plan. That opposition grew out of a fight over whether information published on the UHW web site should have been kept to an in house fight or whether the members needed to know that there were questions about contracts being signed at the National level with little or no rank and file input.

According to UHW, Stern made secret deals with corporations, keeping members in the dark about the trade-offs he agreed to. According to Stern UHW harmed the SEIU by taking an internal argument public and was responsible for losing a huge campaign to organize nurses.

Stern claimed at the convention that his plan will decentralize union power. What Andy didn’t say was that power does not tolerate a vacuum. Where member involvement is weak the local Union leadership is forced to make decisions and the International is forced to make more decisions that should be made at the local level. If the locals do not have an involved membership decisions will be made only by the few.

Is Stern’s plan the biggest power grab in a labor union since the Teamsters? Millions of dollars will move from local Unions to SEIU headquarters in Washington, D.C. Is the plan the smartest move that could be made, using the only power politicians seem to recognize; money?

I say it is about consolidating power and it doesn’t matter whether Andy Stern gains power.

This move will consolidate Union power as never before. When one man can make the same wage as 500 or a thousand or more of his employees by destroying good jobs and outsourcing American jobs we need the money to fight back and we need it in one place with two goals. Elect Democrats and hold them responsible for keeping their promises.

Justice for All is a great slogan, yet it is far more than a slogan. Without good pay, benefits, and respect for American workers the right will continue to use the few good Union jobs left as a target, blaming Unions for all the lost jobs, all the tax breaks for the rich. We need to support others if we expect to get their support in the voting booth. .

There will be massive shift union finances. Half of the SEIU budget will go to the national effort; the SEIU calls the “Accountability Project.”

The SEIU goal is to elect pro-labor members of Congress, spending money to offset the buying power of the corporations and then spend $10 million more “to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises.” If a politician runs on a pro-labor promise they will live up to the promise or they will feel the heat.

50 percent of the national and local organizing budgets, including half of the SEIU staff will be used for the “Accountability Project.” Accountability Project is a nice name. Another name I heard was “payback is a bit*h”.

In Maine we may not see the same 50% hit in budget and staff due to our affiliation agreement, the long term good relationship with the SEIU now handled by Bruce Hodsdon as our president and International Executive Board member.

If we don’t get good politicians here and in Washington you can kiss your pay and benefits goodbye. Just this year one of our so called friends in the legislature voted down the cliff bill even though the evidence was there to show the financial impact would have been minimal.

Our so called friends took nearly thirty million dollars from our health care plan; they would love to figure out how to get their hands on our pension funds. Funds that have been far better invested than any State fund. Your delegates knew there are union members opposed to Stern’s plan and made any decision on what was best for Maine and then what was best for the rest.

A lot of members think our dues should stay at home; all decisions made locally. George Bush tried to sell port security to an Arab country. Would you put it past a politician to outsource the DMV?

There were no easy, perfect decisions. Your delegates did not agree on every vote. But be assured, no one tried to tell any of your delegates how to vote. The one complaint I heard about our President is that when asked for a decision on a vote, he suggested that the delegate study the issue and make the best decision they could for the members that elected them.

That is Union democracy.

I am not a cheerleader for Andy Stern. I would never cross the road if I saw him driving my way, but I am convinced focusing this money and power in order to hold politicians accountable is the right move.

I urge you to fill out the MSEA survey and sign up for the bargaining committee. I am continuing to run my survey and the numbers are picking up. Please have a friend fill it out after you do.
Fill out this Bargaining Survey and be heard.Click Here to take survey Click HERE to see how other members are voting..If you have any ideas for putting together a survey for your local or your bargaining unit please contact me at Narsbars@UnionMaine.Org If you get one person to fill out this survey you will be helping yourself. Ask a friend to fill out the survey and ask them to find another friend to do the same. When the MSEA starts collecting proposals all information gathered will be given to the new teams.


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June 9th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

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