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.