Thursday, January 12, 2017

Andy Stern’s Newest Gig: High-Paid Consultant for Billion-Dollar Tech Companies

Andy Stern, SEIU President Emeritus
SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern has once again revealed his true colors.

Stern is working as a highly paid consultant for Airbnb, Handy, and other billion-dollar tech businesses, according to a January 10, 2017 article (Josh Eidelson, “It’s a New Game for Uber Drivers If New York Passes This Law,” Bloomberg Businessweek).

In New York, for example, Handy hired Stern to help push a bill through the state legislature that would allow Handy and other gig-economy companies like Uber, Instacart, and TaskRabbit to fend off lawsuits filed by workers who seek to be treated as employees rather than “independent contractors.” 

The bill is also backed by the trade group “Tech:NYC,” whose members include Uber, Facebook, Google, EBay, and Etsy.

The bill “would make it easier for gig-economy app makers to continue to treat their workers as contractors, loosening New York’s current standards,” according to Bloomberg. Handy, co-founded in 2012 by two Harvard Business School students, sends workers to people’s homes to clean up or make repairs.

Oh, and that's just the beginning of the pimping that "Handy Andy" has been doing for his billion-dollar tech patrons.

In a separate gig, Stern last month co-authored a proposal with a right-wing D.C. political operative calling on the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and White House to grant “waivers” to states to allow them to do an end-run around federal labor laws. The waivers would be a boon to tech companies, which are facing dozens of class-action action lawsuits from workers alleging they are owed millions in back pay after being misclassified as “independent contractors.”

Stern’s proposal, which appeared in “National Affairs” (Andrew Stern and Eli Lehrer, “How to Modernize Labor Law,” National Affairs), is co-authored by Eli Lehrer, the President of the right-wing “R Street Institute” in Washington DC.

How do Stern and Lehrer propose to “modernize” labor law?

Here's a shocker. 

They propose a legislative agenda that’s virtually identical to the tech industry’s. BTW, Stern's article just so happens to praise Uber and Handy as “sharing-economy companies” with “innovative business models.”

In the article, Stern successfully commits a serious ethical violation by failing to inform readers that he’s actually a highly paid consultant for Uber, Handy, and other tech companies. The article conveniently leaves aside this inconvenient fact, and simply identifies Stern as the “former president of the Service Employees International Union and a senior fellow at Columbia University.”

What’s the skinny on Eli Lehrer and the “R Street Institute”?

The R Street Institute describes itself as “a free market think tank” that favors “limited government.” 

It was founded in 2012 by former members of the Heartland Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It’s an associate member of the “State Policy Network,” which the Center for Media and Democracy describes as “a web of right-wing ‘think tanks’ in every state across the country” with deep ties to the billionaire Koch brothers and other conservative funders.

For example, the R Street Institute opposes raising the minimum wage and supports legislation to make it easier for companies to classify their workers as “independent contractors.”

Who is Lehrer?

He’s the president and co-founder of The R Street Institute. Formerly, he served as the senior editor of The American Enterprise magazine and was a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, according to his bio.
Handy CEO Oisin Hanrahan

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Stern’s and Lehrer’s proposal would cause great harm to workers.

Think about it. 

If the federal government decides to “decentralize” labor law by granting “waivers” to states so they can “experiment” with alternative labor laws, what might they do?

Just consider the right-wing forces and Tea Party fanatics who now control many state legislatures.

In Kentucky, where Republicans control state government for the first time in nearly a century, legislators last weekend passed a right-to-work law that was promptly signed by the Republican governor. The new law also prohibits public employees from going on strike.

Next up? Kentucky legislators are considering a bill to eliminate prevailing wages for public works projects.

Meanwhile, state legislatures in Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, and Virginia offer another glimpse of the will right-wing ideologues controlling many states. Each of these legislatures will be considering so-called “bathroom bills” like North Carolina’s, which would require transgender people to use restrooms in public schools, universities, and government buildings that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificate. Many of the bills would also ban cities and counties from approving ordinances aimed at protecting transgender rights.

So… what a f*cking great idea, Andy. An absolutely perfect moment in history to give waivers to state legislatures so they can “experiment” with crazy-ass changes to laws governing workers’ minimum wages, overtime hours, anti-discrimination rules, pension rights, and rights to form unions.

Here are a few excerpts from Stern’s and Lehrer’s “bold” proposal to “modernize” US labor law:
It's time for a new path, one that takes advantage of one of the most successful public-policy innovations of the past 50 years: waivers from federal law to allow state experimentation… A system to allow state waivers from major labor laws similarly could give every interest group a chance to try bold reforms the federal framework doesn't currently allow.
The laws eligible for waivers should include, at minimum, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Taft-Hartley Act.

What sort of concrete innovations do Stern and Lehrer envision?

Here are a couple described in the article:

Overtime Pay: Instead of the current laws requiring companies to pay overtime wages after eight hours, “waivers might also allow averaging of overtime over several weeks or a month,” thereby allowing companies to reduce overtime pay to workers.

Wage Rates: Instead of current laws requiring companies and labor unions to collectively negotiate a system of pay rates covering all workers, waivers could “leave matters of wages or benefits or both to negotiations between managers and individual employees.”
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

WTF is Stern doing?

Stern is a pimp without a shred of principles or moral grounding… just a lust for lining his pockets with as much cash as he can possibly stuff inside them. 

Just weeks after resigning as SEIU’s president in 2010, Stern began pocketing wads of stock options and cash from billionaire Ron Perelman, an employer of SEIU’s members whom Stern reportedly negotiated secret labor deals. SEIU officials, including Mary Kay Henry, took no action to stop Stern’s apparent ethics violations. In fact, SEIU continues to consider Stern its “President Emeritus.”

What’s next on Stern’s agenda?

Here’s an idea. 

Perhaps he might want to propose giving “waivers” to allow Republican-controlled state legislatures to “experiment” with “bold innovations” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other federal statutes designed to protect people’s fundamental rights. 

Tasty is confident that if someone gives Handy Andy a thick wad of cash, he’d no-doubt oblige.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

SEIU's Memo on 30% Budget Cuts

Here’s the memo from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry to "all SEIU staff" detailing plans to cut SEIU’s budget by 30% by January 1, 2018. Tasty reported on the memo, dated December 14, 2016, in this post.

Friday, December 30, 2016

SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry Removes President of SEIU Local 99

In early December, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry removed SEIU Local 99 President Barbara Torres from office and suspended her membership in SEIU for four years, according to notices distributed to union members and also available online. Henry also removed a second officer, Executive Board member Jacqueline Brown, and appointed Eliseo Medina to serve as a “monitor” of Local 99.  

Based in Los Angeles, SEIU Local 99 represents 25,000 public school workers.

According to SEIU, the actions came after “a thorough investigation and hearing by SEIU International” that reportedly was prompted by charges against union officials.

In October, SEIU’s International Executive Board held two days of hearings in Las Vegas to investigate separate charges filed against the top leaders of SEIU Local 1107, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Local 1107 represents approximately 9000 workers in Nevada.

Eliseo Medina’s assignment to Local 99 is his second such gig in a handful of months. In August, Henry appointed Medina as the “trustee” of SEIU Local 73 after she imposed a trusteeship on the Chicago-based union, which represents 25,000 public-sector workers in Illinois and northwestern Indiana.
Medina addressing Local number 73 members in Chicago

Readers may recall that Local 99 has a troubled history of scandals and corruption by its top officials.

In 2004, Andy Stern appointed Bill Lloyd as the trustee of Local 99.

Lloyd, who subsequently took on the job of Local 99's Executive Director, pocketed no fewer than three separate paychecks from SEIU totaling $224,000 a year along with multiple perks including an eight-year-long, SEIU-paid hotel room at the Wilshire Grande Hotel.

Lloyd is also known for his infamous sexual affair with Local 99’s then-president, Janett Humphries, at the same time that she was embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the union's members. In 2006, Humprhies pleaded guilty in federal court to four counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy.

Steve Trossman -- who reportedly covered up Tyrone Freeman’s million-dollar theft from SEIU members for years -- also did damage control for Lloyd. Trossman now works for Dave Regan as SEIU-UHW’s "Communications Director."

In 2012, Lloyd silently disappeared from his job as the Executive Director of Local 99.

Max Arias currently serves as Local 99’s Executive Director. Arias, a former staffer at SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, parachuted into California in 2009 as part of SEIU’s trusteeship of SEIU-UHW. Arias was initially assigned to nursing homes, where workers reported about his disrespectful attitude towards workers.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

SEIU Announces 30% Budget Cuts in 2017 with AFSCME Merger on the Way

According to multiple press outlets, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued an internal memo on December 14 announcing plans for a 30% cut to SEIU International’s budget in 2017. Tasty’s sources say the plan calls for cuts of 10% in January 2017 and another 20% in July 2017.

News of the memo was first publicly reported by Josh Eidelson at Bloomberg Businessweek (Eidelson, “Fear of Trump Triggers Deep Spending Cuts by Nation's Second-Largest Union,” Bloomberg Businessweek, December 27, 2016).

In the memo, Henry says the cuts are necessary due to the Republican Party’s imminent control of all three branches of the federal government. Here’s an excerpt from her December 14 memo, according to Bloomberg:
Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions. These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.

Tasty believes the story behind the cuts is more complex than what SEIU describes in its memo.


There’s another reason for the cuts that so far hasn’t been mentioned – namely, SEIU’s planned merger with AFSCME.

More than 18 months ago, SEIU and AFSCME began merger talks spurred by concerns about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court case that could weaken public-sector unions by challenging their right to collect fair share fees from nonmembers to cover the costs of representation, such as negotiating contracts. In February 2016, the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court deadlocked on the Friedrichs case and apparently slowed the two unions’ merger plans.

In May 2016, SEIU approved a resolution leaving open the possibility of a full-blown merger while immediately calling for joint planning, organizing, bargaining, and political work between the two unions. In July 2016, AFSCME approved a nearly identical resolution.

With the election of Trump in November, both unions are likely speeding up their merger plans -- which undoubtedly will require the elimination of duplicate functions, departments, etc at the two unions. Tasty guesses this helps explain SEIU’s announcement of rapid budget cuts.

It also helps explain why other unions with large public-sector memberships haven’t also announced deep budget cuts.
SEIU's Mary Kay Henry

So why doesn’t Henry’s budget-cut memo mention the AFSCME merger? It’s easier to win the staff’s support for layoffs based on Trump.

If Tasty’s theory is correct, we’ll likely see evidence of expedited merger activity in the months ahead… and perhaps budget cuts at AFSCME as well.

As far as eliminating waste, SEIU should start by axing some of its highly paid officials inhabiting the top floors of the Purple Palace. For example, over a number of years, SEIU has almost doubled the number of its full-time “Executive Vice Presidents” (from four to seven EVPs). 

The latest increase came in May of 2016 when SEIU boosted the number of EVPs from six to seven-- at the same time that it passed the AFSCME merger resolution to prepare for SEIU's declining membership. Makes total sense, right?

Each EVP earns more than $200,000 a year, according to financial records. If you eliminate four of them, that’s more than $1 million in savings a year when you factor in benefits, etc.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

AFT Trounces SEIU in Runoff Election at Washington Hospital

Last week, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) thrashed SEIU Local 49 in a runoff election for 900 workers at 450-bed PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington.
Tally sheet from NLRB vote count

Here are the vote totals, according to NLRB records:
AFT:  319 votes
SEIU Local 49:  110 votes
Challenged Ballots:  1 ballot
Voided Ballots:  4 ballots             

The runoff election -- which took place December 14-15 -- followed a late-November election in which AFT's Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals was the top vote-getter yet failed to secure an outright majority as required by NLRB rules.

In last week’s runoff, workers’ support for SEIU dropped sharply. In fact, SEIU’s vote total dropped by more than one-third -- from 171 in the November election to only 110 in last week’s vote.

On December 16, the AFT issued a press release quoting President Randi Weingarten: "I'm thrilled to welcome the service and maintenance workers at PeaceHealth Southwest into the AFT family... The AFT continues to grow as a healthcare union..."

SEIU Local 49 is headed by Meg “I Love the Boss” Niemi, a close ally of SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan. Niemi is also a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board.

For more information, see "PeaceHealth employees vote for union choice" (The Columbian, December 19, 2016) and “PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center workers vote to join AFT” (NW Labor Press, December 19, 2016).

Friday, December 16, 2016

SEIU Officials Perform Three-Ring Circus in Vegas

In Nevada, SEIU Local 1107 appears to be imploding amid intense infighting between the union’s top officials.

The union -- also known as “SEIU Nevada” -- represents approximately 9,000 workers in public and private hospitals as well as local government workers.

So what’s going on?

It’s kinda hard to track all of the grimy details of this multidimensional sh*tfest, but here are a few tidbits:
  • In August, police were called to the union’s offices when the union’s Executive Vice President (Sharon Kisling) allegedly chased and threatened one of the union’s staff directors in what he called “a two-and-a-half-hour reign of terror at our office,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal (“Fight within SEIU Local 1107 shows no sign of slowing down,” December 3, 2016). The staff director later reportedly got the courts to issue a temporary restraining order against Kisling.
  • In July, the union’s president, Cherie Mancini, abruptly canceled a contract-ratification vote at Las Vegas’s largest hospital (University Medical Center) so she could supposedly investigate a bunch of vague allegations against unnamed members of the rank-and-file bargaining committee.
What kind of allegations did she want to investigate?
They included such specifics as “violation of fiduciary duty,” “failing to conduct bargaining in a prudent manner,” and “behavior inconsistent with the mutually agreed upon interest-based bargaining process.” Oh, and she apparently had no named accusers.
After 400 hospital workers signed a petition against the union’s president, President Mancini reversed her decision and allowed the membership vote to take place. Nonetheless, the bargaining team was pissed that the union’s president had trashed their reputation by circulating “wildly absurd allegations” in a memo she emailed to all of their co-workers and also posted on the Internet.
  • So, on July 31, the bargaining team sent a letter to SEIU President Mary Kay Henry saying they had “lost all confidence” in the local union president. They called on Henry to put the union in trusteeship and remove their president from office. Their letter to Henry reads in part: 
It is unacceptable that SEIU President Mancini has done great and unforgivable damage to the SEIU-UMC bargaining team by publicly making false allegations without a second thought as to what it would do to the members of this union… President Mancini has shown disdain, disrespect and complete ignorance for our duly elected SEIU officers and volunteer bargaining team and for these reasons, we feel that President Mancini is either mentally unable or unwilling to carry out her sworn duties… UMC Bargaining Team is also demanding that Local 1107 be trusteed and reconstructed so that this type of situation, where a Union President publicly attacks its own Union members, will never happen again. Our team and UMC members believe that the organization of SEIU Local 1107 has lost sight of working for our members’ common good and has let personal politics and greed take control and we reject this!
  • Next, in September, the union’s President and Executive Vice President filed dueling “internal charges” against one other alleging violations of SEIU’s constitution and bylaws. The charges -- which allege “financial malpractice” and “engaging in corrupt or unethical practices” -- call on SEIU’s International Executive Board to suspend each other from office.
    SEIU's IEB on a break?
  • In October, just in case this circus-like situation wasn’t whacky enough, SEIU’s International Executive Board held two days of hearings in Las Vegas to investigate the charges. And the Purple Palace chose the perfect setting for their hearing:  the Circus Circus Casino!
  • Meanwhile, an independent union called the “UMC-Clark County Public Employees Association” is actively trying to decertify SEIU.
Oh, and that’s not all.
  • In February 2017, SEIU Local 1107’s former president, Al Martinez, is scheduled to go on trial in civil court over allegations that he misappropriated approximately $50,000 of union funds, according to a separate article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (“Gov. Brian Sandoval cites lawsuit for PERS Board member’s removal,” October 3, 2016).

So… if any readers are headed to Vegas, keep your eye out for the next three-ring carnival act (also known as the SEIU International Executive Board) at a casino near you!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

AFT Beats SEIU in Hospital Election in Washington State

Late last month, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) bested SEIU Local 49 in a head-to-head election for 900 non-union hospital workers in Vancouver, Washington, according to NLRB records and press reports.

Here’s the final tally of the election at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center held November 21-22:

AFT’s Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals:  297 votes
SEIU Local 49:  176 votes
No Union:  171 votes
Challenged Ballots:  24 votes

SEIU barely got more votes than the "No Union" option on the ballot. A runoff election between AFT and SEIU is scheduled for next week on December 14 and 15.

SEIU Local 49 is headed by Meg “I Love the Boss” Niemi, a close ally of SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan. Niemi is also a member of SEIU’s International Executive Board.

For more coverage of the election, see The Colombian (Vancouver, WA), “PeaceHealth Workers to Unionize” (December 7, 2016).