Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic-Styled Smackdown Upends SEIU's Andy Stern

Readers may have missed an Olympic event that ended with a withering smackdown of Andy Stern, SEIU's President Emeritus. 

Here's what happened.

It turns out that SEIU’s Andy Stern is pursuing yet another opportunity to undermine workers in exchange for wads of cash from big business. Last month, Stern “joined a gang of incredibly wealthy CEOs” to push a plan that would cut social security and Medicare benefits for the elderly, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The gang of millionaire CEOs -- operating under the name of “Campaign to Fix the Debt” -- plans to raise more than a quarter-billion dollars from giant corporations and then launch an advertising blitz to convince the U.S. public to accept cuts to their health and retirement benefits. (Sound familiar, SEIU-UHW members?)

SEIU's Andy Stern
Who’s leading the effort? A bunch of gold-plated CEOs from JP Morgan, Caesars, Aetna, Honeywell, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Invesco, etc… and, of course, SEIU’s Andy Stern. In addition, “The Campaign will work closely with its CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, which is made up of nearly 100 CEOs and business leaders…,” according to the Campaign’s website.

Last month, the Campaign held its official “launch” at a press conference in Washington, D.C.  According to the Washington Post,
Later that evening, at Honeywell’s Washington office, over a salmon dinner with the floodlit Capitol dome as a backdrop, the executives huddled with their political co-conspirators: Simpson and Bowles, Warner and Saxby, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House. Also on board: Simpson-Bowles commissioners Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, and Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union.
Stern’s “statement of support” for the CEOs’ campaign appears on the Campaign’s website.

Matt Stoller, a political analyst and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, wrote about the effort and offered this insight about Stern:
Back when he was trying to woo bloggers in the mid-2000s, Stern invited me on a trip around the country to see the union. On that trip, he told me that SEIU was growing so quickly he wished he could cash out and take it public. Since retiring from SEIU, Stern is now on the board of a bio-weapons company and his political connections are what he sells. So he’s one of the links between shutting down liberal opposition to this plan, the White House, and the business community. That level of self-serving cynicism has become the basis of our political system, and it’s an important cultural element in delivering austerity to a public that doesn’t want it.
Apparently, Andy couldn’t “cash out” by converting SEIU into a Fortune 500 company, so he’s now “cashing out” by simply pimping for every giant corporation under the sun.

And just in case Stern’s partnership with the entitlement-slashing gang of CEOs wasn’t bad enough, in late July Stern announced he had joined the Board of Directors of a group that’s working to undercut teachers unions. Here’s just one piece attacking SEIU’s President Emeritus for this move:
But WHY did Andy Stern have to join the Broad Foundation, an organization so antithetical to education workers' interests? He could have turned it down. By signing up he gives the impression that organized labor is fine with collaborating with a foundation that drives the education de-form or stand-on-children abuse of school policy, teachers and children…

But why couldn't Stern practice some labor solidarity and keep more than a 10 foot pole's distance from the noxious company of the Broad Foundation?
As readers can imagine, Stern’s recent actions have garnered substantial journalistic interest, including a piece published by “In These Times.” It begins this way:
Former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern has long faced criticism from dissidents within his own union that he sold out workers in order to accommodate corporate America. His critics say they have been proven right by Stern's career moves since he left SEIU in 2010. In particular, they point to Stern taking two positions associated with a private equity titan as well as joining the board of an organization that is alleged to have trained school superintendents to combat teachers' unions. 
Ron Perelman
The article goes on to describe Stern’s revolving-door relationship with one of the world’s richest men, Ron Perelman. As president of SEIU, Stern negotiated a sweetheart deal with Perelman that sold out 10,000 low-wage security guards employed by Perelman. Weeks after Stern retired from SEIU, Perelman placed Stern on the board of directors of one of his companies (SIGA Technologies), where Stern pocketed 35,000 stock options.

What’s Stern’s current job? He’s the “Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow” at Columbia University’s business school, courtesy of his billionaire patron!

And now… our Olympic moment!

As Andy dined on salmon in Honeywell’s corporate offices and gazed admiringly at his three-piece suit and shiny gold watch, a truth-telling labor leader fired a shot that hit Stern precisely in the solar plexus. Here’s the game-winning blow as published by “In These Times:”
“I think it’s again the latest indication that [Stern’s] true interest is in being a junior member of the corporate ruling class,” says John Borsos, secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which split off from SEIU over deals Stern cut with hospitals that its members considered to be too generous to employers. “I think he always had that propensity. He always wanted to be a mover and shaker in corporate America, which is why he was such an accommodationist. Now he is showing what his true intentions were. He ran the union to accommodate corporate America and now he is cashing in.”
The article concludes with this final quote from Borsos, which sent Stern sprawling to the mat… and Borsos to the medal stand:
“I am not sure anyone trusts the Ron Perelman Professor of Business to advocate the union agenda. I wouldn't even call him a labor leader at this point because no one views him as a labor leader except big business.”