Friday, February 15, 2013

SEIU Backs Chamber of Commerce in Slashing Unemployment Benefits for Workers in North Carolina

A reader from North Carolina sent along this jaw-dropping story about SEIU’s silent support for the North Carolina’s Chamber of Commerce and its campaign to slash unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless workers.

North Carolina Policy Watch calls the campaign -- which will immediately affect 438,000 unemployed workers and their families -- “one of the most radical attacks on the unemployed in modern American history.”

This week, North Carolina’s legislature approved the draconian cuts, according to an article in the New York Times. The cuts will reduce weekly unemployment benefits by 35%, drop 170,000 of the state’s current jobless workers from benefit rolls, cut by as much as half the number of weeks for collecting benefits, and implement many other reductions.

Here’s what happened:

Last year, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party launched a campaign to gut the state’s system of unemployment benefits. In North Carolina, there happen to be lots of jobless workers: the state has the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate at 9.2%.

In response, grassroots groups banded together to fight back. They include the North Carolina Justice Center, the National Employment Law Project, NAACP, National Council of Churches, National Organization of Women, Children First, the State AFL-CIO, Disability Rights North Carolina, and religious leaders. 

S. Lewis Ebert, CEO Chamber of Commerce
According to these groups, the Chamber’s legislation -- known as House Bill 4 -- will push many families “into extreme poverty.” One group called the bill “an unprecedented assault on struggling families” and “an evisceration of the state’s unemployment insurance system.” Here’s additional info on the bill.

What about SEIU?

SEIU is one of North Carolina’s largest labor unions. It represents 55,000 public-sector workers through a local called the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC).

Now… it should be a no-brainer that a union would jump in and fight to protect the state’s system of unemployment benefits, right?

Well, not if you’re SEIU.

In fact… every union across North Carolina opposed the Chamber’s horrible cuts… except for SEIU. And that’s not all. SEIU’s Dana Cope (the Executive Director of SEANC) actually bragged about SEIU’s silent support for House Bill 4.

In the run-up to the legislature’s vote on the bill, advocacy organizations sent a tweet asking, “Could SEANC be the only union in North Carolina NOT opposed to House Bill 4”?  Cope responded: “Certainly the largest one with 55,000 members.” Here’s a copy of the exchange from Cope’s twitter page.

A reader in North Carolina writes: 

 I wonder, how many SEANC members have family members or friends who are unemployed and will lose everything when this bill becomes law?

The Chamber’s bill will have a particularly devastating impact on 170,000 jobless workers. Due to the ongoing recession, these workers are currently receiving extended unemployment benefits because there simply aren’t jobs for them to fill. Not much longer. Under the Chamber’s bill, all of these 170,000 workers will lose their benefits on July 1.

So why is SEIU taking a position that’s so contrary to workers’ interests? Tasty’s sources say that SEIU and Dana Cope likely cut a backroom deal with the Chamber of Commerce and the Republicans -- perhaps like the deal that SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan cut with the CEO of the hospital industry’s Chamber of Commerce in California.

In fact, in an earlier deal, Cope reportedly sold out the teachers’ union by allowing the North Carolina legislature to take away payroll deduction for union dues from the members of the North Carolina Association of Educators (an affiliate of the NEA) while preserving it for SEANC’s members.

SEIU's Dana Cope
From what Tasty can tell, it sounds like this is par for the course for Dana Cope. It turns out that Cope has an ego that’s the size of Texas. He features himself on his own personal website -- – which gushes about his lengthy “entrepreneurial career” and fabulous accomplishments. It even features his personal blog.

Here are a few fun facts from Cope’s website: Did you know that Cope was a “Vice-President of the Texas Future Business Leaders”? He sure was! 

And that’s not all. He was also a member of the “Outstanding Young Men of America.” (Tasty is not kidding.) These and other stomach-churning facts are splashed across Cope’s website in nauseating detail.

It’s no surprise, then, that SEIU and this ego-maniac were so quick to sell out workers. In fact, Cope is a perfect match for the other egomaniacal, fat-cat officials who populate the Purple Palace. And since 2012, Cope has served as a Vice President on SEIU’s International Executive Board, a position formerly held by Tyrone Freeman. Looks like Cope will have a legendary career with his Purple Palace mates.