The announcement of the new union itself came from the desk of Mary Kay Henry, the President of SEIU. Good news? SEIU is always about being the biggest, triumphalist in its campaigns – and gimmicks…
The details? Just how will all this happen? Well, we’ll have to wait. So will the workers. Not to worry, however; according to the mailer, “We are developing an orderly transition plan and will be in regular communication with you and all affected members over the next few months.” Questions? “Please call 844-259-1694. Your fellow union members are standing by to take your call.”
I called and was informed that eight members were ahead of me but “your call is important to us.” However, I could leave a question and receive a call back “within two business days.” I held on and after 16 minutes spoke to Minh, a “staff organizer” in Los Angeles. I asked him if it was indeed a done deal he said yes. And would the new local be headed by Laphonza Butler, a Henry protégé, now of Local 6364, “yes, at this point… it is still a process in transition.” And would there be any informational meetings in my area, North Bay, Santa Rosa? “No, none were scheduled.”
…Widely despised in trade union circles, not to mention amongst his own members, Regan came to California in 2008, parachuted in by Andy Stern, then President of SEIU, to take command of a trusteed UHW. Since then he has established himself as a friend of the hospital bosses par excellence, a grantor of concessions, champion of partnerships. His latest secret deal has been with Kaiser Permanente and its hospitals, one that stops the public (and the authorities) from knowing about quality of care problems in the state’s massive healthcare industry.
"Corporate Collaborator" Dave Regan undercut by SEIU International; SEIU-UHW members caught in crossfire
"In the labor movement, there are two kinds of leaders — those who fight big corporations, and those who collaborate with them," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote in the Huffington Post this week. "The poster child for the collaborators just had half his membership taken away.
"David Regan, head of United Healthcare Workers West, who inked sweetheart deals with California's largest HMO, Kaiser and its hospitals, to keep quality-of-care problems hush-hush, and only fought for corporations' political goals, lost 70,000 of his 150,000 members recently.
"It's a fitting fate for one of labor's biggest corporate sellouts."
Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU International, is shoring up her power base within the union by unilaterally cutting SEIU–UHW in half and moving 70,000 home care workers into a new local. SEIU–UHW members not only didn't get to vote on the move, they were not even aware of it until the deal was done.
Those who remember the 2009 trusteeship of SEIU–UHW will appreciate the irony of this latest fiasco, which Cal Winslow has dissected in his latest article, "Pawns in SEIU's Game," published this week by CounterPunch and BeyondChron.
This same top-down decision to eviscerate SEIU–UHW was the basis for the trusteeship that resulted in the ouster of the union's previous leaders, who went on to form democratic, member-led NUHW with the support of thousands of SEIU–UHW members. It was clear then that the transfer was purely a political move, a scheme by SEIU International's then President Andy Stern and then Vice President Mary Kay Henry to get rid of the democratic leadership of SEIU–UHW and put it firmly under the control of SEIU International in Washington DC.
And if anyone doubted that fact, it was later made abundantly clear when Stern and Henry decided not to follow through on the move once they'd installed their friend Dave Regan as president of SEIU–UHW.
Stern has since moved on to join the ranks of corporate America, leaving Mary Kay Henry in charge, and now she's resurrected the scheme, this time to undermine her former protégé, Regan, who has responded with an outlandishly hypocritical memo that rails against the very same actions that helped get him his job in 2009. Regan was in favor of carving up SEIU–UHW when it worked in his favor but calls it "a massive betrayal" now that it doesn't.
Click here to read Dave Regan's memo. If you think it sounds familiar, it is. These are the same arguments voiced by NUHW leaders when they were ousted from SEIU–UHW by Regan, Henry, and Stern six years ago.
One could almost find it amusing if it weren't so tragic. A once democratic union that was built through decades of struggle has been steadily undermined over the past six years until it has become a corporatized branch of the autocratic SEIU International. And now, with the transfer of half of SEIU–UHW's membership into a new local, the dismantling of what was once the biggest, strongest, proudest healthcare union in California is nearly complete.
Our condolences to SEIU–UHW members, who remain trapped in an undemocratic and increasingly corporate-minded union whose leaders protect their own power at the expense of the workers they ostensibly represent.