Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SEIU: Who's Your Daddy?

SEIU's Dave Kieffer
Tasty hears that SEIU is getting heavy criticism in California for cutting a backroom deal that undermines the efforts of unions and progressive organizations to restore funding for education and social services. And that’s not all. SEIU’s secret deal has even undercuts SEIU’s own members! Here’s what happened:

For many months, SEIU has been an active member of a statewide coalition of unions and community organizations that drafted a “Millionaires Tax Initiative” that would raise state income taxes on millionaires in order to restore funding to California’s schools and social services. The measure, designed for the November ballot, would raise an estimated $4-$6 billion a year.

SEIU helped write the tax measure and even insisted that the new tax revenues go to California’s cash-strapped cities, counties and schools, which employ more than 100,000 of SEIU’s members. As readers may recall, SEIU’s members are getting hammered at the bargaining table across the state. For example, nearly 1,000 members of SEIU Local 1021 in Mendocino County recently took a 12.5% pay cut, according to articles titled “County Seeking Big Concessions from SEIU” and “Supervisors Cut Workers’ Pay by 12.5%.”

The Millionaires Tax offered a perfect solution. So SEIU joined the coalition, which includes the California Federation of Teachers, the Courage Campaign, California Calls (a statewide coalition of community organizations), ACCE and others.

Well… umm… err… that is, until SEIU decided to sell out their labor and community allies!

Last month, SEIU officials suddenly announced they had abandoned the Millionaires Tax and instead were throwing their support behind a competing initiative that’s backed by the Governor and Big Business -- including the Business Roundtable (Bank of America, Safeway, Chevron, AT&T, Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, etc), Occidental Petroleum, a private prison corporation, the California Hospital Association (you know, the hospital industry) and other bastions of the 1%.

The Governor's initiative is favored by Big Business because it would raise revenues by hiking the sales tax on all Californians and imposing only a temporary tax hike on the wealthy.

So why did SEIU stab its labor and community allies in the back? Simple. SEIU officials cut a secret deal with Governor Jerry Brown whereby SEIU traded away its support for the Millionaires Tax in exchange for goodies from the Governor. What kind of goodies? According to sources, the Governor committed to support SEIU’s legislation to allow the Purple Palace to unionize thousands of California’s home-based childcare workers. In other words, SEIU is trading away tax revenues for its existing public-sector members so SEIU can grow its membership rolls.

Tasty hears the secret deal was cut when Gov. Brown “met privately” with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry during his recent trip to Washington, DC.

Several days later, SEIU’s Dave Kieffer began publicly attacking SEIU’s former coalition partners, as he did in this article that's entitled: “SEIU Director Tells Jerry Brown’s Tax-Plan Rivals to Step Aside.” In the article, Kieffer urges his former coalition partners to abandon the Millionaires Tax because the Governor is “the Daddy of California.” Kieffer offers other compelling reasons, like this one: if there are two competing measures on the November ballot, "we'll end up with this silly thing where the one with the most votes will get accepted."

Tasty hears that many of SEIU’s members are none too happy. Check out this photo of SEIU members at the recent Occupy Education rally in the state’s capital where workers displayed their support for the Millionaires Tax.

Meanwhile, the Millionaires Tax is polling far ahead of the Governor’s initiative, according to polls like this one. And the supporters of the Millionaires Tax are hanging tough despite the Governor's efforts to twist their arms and SEIU's public attacks. That's why the Governor has been forced to negotiate with the Coalition over a possible compromise initiative. If there is a compromise, Tasty can't wait to see what happens when the Coalition's members find themselves in a room with SEIU officials like Dave Kieffer!