Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Save Our Unions"!

If you’re interested in a good read, labor journalist Steve Early just published a new book called “Save Our Unions.” The book, available from Monthly Review Press, has chapters with titles like, "A Stewards' Army Uprising."

One chapter -- “Partnering or Picketing?” -- describes the giant strikes that 21,000 members of NUHW and CNA recently waged against Kaiser Permanente. He describes how Purple officials like SEIU-UHW Executive Board member Shawna Stewart teamed up with Kaiser’s bosses to fight the strikes.

In another chapter called "The Corporate Wellness Scam," Early profiles the newest flavor of corporate ripoffs designed by Pepsi and other giant corporations -- which is actively being pushed by SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan in partnership with the corporate fatcats. For example, Early describes this episode:

At Daughters of Charity, the new "wellness program" negotiated in April 2012 by SEIU’s United Healthcare Workers-West comes, per usual, with more familiar forms of cost shifting. Three thousand UHW members at five hospitals will now pay 25 percent of the monthly premiums for PPO coverage that was previously fully paid by their employer. Out-of-pocket costs for medical plan utilization (doctor visits, prescriptions, etc.) will double and the premiums of workers who fail to meet new standards for personal healthiness will be 20 percent higher than those for their coworkers. To get these concessions approved, UHW conducted a rushed two-day ratification vote that began less than 12 hours after a tentative agreement was reached. The SEIU Constitution requires three days' advance notice of ratification votes; workers at Daughters of Charity got only nine hours. According to workers who complained, in writing, to SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, UHW reps refused to provide them with copies of the agreement they were voting on.

And Early finds hopeful lessons from workers' recent battles:

The goal of "saving our unions" is best pursued in ecumenical fashion, from the bottom up, with no false dichotomy between "external” and "internal" organizing… Wherever the traditional route of union reform is blocked and workers remain trapped in labor-management relationships that deprive them of any meaningful, independent voice, a militant minority will soldier on. Its usual friends and allies will continue to lend a hand because they know that the magic kingdom of labor-management partnering is no laboratory for creating a more democratic, inclusive, and social justice-oriented labor movement. It's far more likely that elements of such a movement will emerge from worker resistance to company unionism, where the first glimmers of something better are already visible and inspiring at Kaiser.

Here’s more info on the book. Check it out!