At SEIU’s 2016 convention in Detroit, SEIU members raised concerns about union democracy inside SEIU… which were quickly quashed by a committee headed by members of SEIU’s International Executive Board.
Here’s what happened.
SEIU Local 1021 -- which represents 45,000 public-sector workers in Northern California -- presented a convention resolution that would have given rank-and-file union members a say in determining SEIU’s endorsement of US presidential candidates instead of simply allowing SEIU’s International Executive Board (IEB) to make the decision.
Local 1021’s resolution follows months of criticism directed at SEIU’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
On November 17, 2015, SEIU’s IEB endorsed Clinton even though large numbers of SEIU members had submitted petitions requesting a postponement of any endorsement due to support for Bernie Sanders.
A Politico article published in late 2015, “SEIU Battles over Bernie,” summarized the developments this way:
Fearful that the powerful labor union could soon endorse Hillary Clinton, supporters of Vermont Senator have petitioned top leaders to hold off on endorsing a candidate.
In another sign of discontent, SEIU Local 1984 -- which represents public-sector workers in the state of New Hampshire -- announced its endorsement of Sanders just two days after SEIU International endorsed Clinton ("New Hampshire SEIU Branch Backs Sanders”).
This recent history appears to be what caused SEIU Local 1021 to propose “Resolution 223” to the SEIU convention in Detroit, which ended earlier this week. The resolution reads in part as follows (full copy is below):
|Clinton at SEIU's 2016 Convention in Detroit|
Whereas: the democratic tradition in our nation and in our labor movement is founded on the idea that every person, every voice, every voter has a right to be heard; and…
Whereas: there is a crisis in government and voting with many feeling that the system is rigged, that their vote does not count and their voices not heard in the electoral process; and…
Whereas: the institution of the union must trust and engage the rank and file to discuss, debate and vote on their endorsement recommendation for President of the United State; and
Whereas: the union must demonstrate to the candidates for President of the United States the importance of being accountable to working people and our families by creating a process for endorsement for President of the United States that is democratic, inclusive, and accountable to the rank-and-file;
Therefore be it resolved that: SEIU International will develop a direct system of voting where all members may cast a vote for their preferred candidate for President of the United States using technology or another tool for vote casting and counting; and
Therefore be it further resolved that: the SEIU International will develop a committee of members from throughout the country to create an endorsement process and timeline, and the necessary infrastructure for direct member feedback on issues and endorsements for the President of United States and a process for the 2020 election cycle.
So what happened to the resolution?
It never saw the light of day.
Under SEIU’s rules, only resolutions approved by a small committee of SEIU officials are permitted onto the convention floor for debate and voting by delegates.
In this case, SEIU’s 19-person “Resolutions Committee” -- headed by SEIU IEB member Hector “AirBnB” Figueroa and including IEB members Meg Niemi and Marge Faville Robinson -- refused to send the resolution to the convention floor and instead “referred” it to the IEB for future discussion.
It was sent to the circular file.