recently described how SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry and her allies in California have intensified their fight against Dave Regan by introducing two statewide ballot initiatives that are competing head-to-head with ones introduced by Regan’s SEIU-UHW.
The spectacle of purple-on-purple warfare is drawing increasing attention from the press. Check out the following article by David Dayen entitled "California Duplicate Minimum Wage Ballot Battle Pits SEIU vs. SEIU" published in "In These Times."
Here are a few excerpts:
The strange turn of events reflects a long-simmering feud between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) state council, made up of SEIU locals throughout California and encompassing over 700,000 members, and one of its affiliates, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (UHW). SEIU-UHW already has their minimum wage initiative in the field, but the state council announced theirs anyway. Both sides believe the dispute will eventually reach some resolution. But the ugly legacy of distrust and backbiting threatens to put low-wage workers in the middle of a squabble they had nothing to do with.
Regan, who has been criticized by some labor and consumer advocates for putting together a favorable deal with the California Hospital Association that included de facto gag orders on workers over quality and safety issues, clashed with new SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. In a move first attempted back in 2009 when Rosselli was at the controls, Henry’s SEIU split the UHW local, taking 70,000 members away. In a leaked memo, Regan called the move a “massive betrayal of our stated principles and values,” although he favored such a carve-up in 2009. UHW has been labeled hypocritical corporate sellouts on one side, and SEIU International an unfeeling autocracy on the other.
On the other hand, SEIU-UHW has a history of announcing ballot measures without much follow-through. In 2014, they used the threat of initiatives to cap CEO pay at hospitals and prices for medical treatment to make their deal with the California Hospital Association. While the local has gathered signatures before, they’ve never organized to win their own ballot measure, a costly proposition estimated at between $20-$30 million.
While declining to give specific figures, Trossman said “we’re going to spend millions of dollars to pass this thing,” and that he was confident UHW “will be able to attract money from big and small donors,” suggesting a strategy of qualifying for the ballot first and fundraising later. Kristin Lynch, spokeswoman for SEIU 1021, said they and their coalition partners are prepared to spend the $20-$30 million necessary. “We’re confident that this speaks to the will of the people,” Lynch said.
Obviously, whatever faction responsible for a living wage victory will carry clout in California and a leg up on organizing grateful low-wage workers. And with UHW needing to prove their worth as the international SEIU pulls them apart, they are unlikely to give up that opportunity, especially if they are already eligible for the ballot. “I can’t imagine that [the state council] would spend millions of dollars on something that for all intents and purposes has qualified,” said UHW’s Steve Trossman.
Jamie Court of the veteran state progressive organization Consumer Watchdog believes that SEIU-UHW’s Regan could be using leverage from the ballot measure to get his members back. “You never know what’s on a desperate man’s mind,” Court said. “It’s his way of shaking down the labor movement.”