Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SEIU Launches For-Profit Unionism from Tech-Styled "Business Incubator"

A scene from The Workers Lab "Summer Institute"
"You can't make this sh*t up," says one reader about the following story.

Last year, Tasty reported that SEIU decided to plow millions of dollars into a Silicon Valley-styled "business incubator" as part of SEIU’s "innovative strategy" to "revitalize" the labor movement by, uhh, adopting more capitalist money-making schemes into SEIU’s operations.

So long, class struggle.

Hello, google capitalism.

SEIU's "business incubator"-- which is modeled after venture capital firms -- is up and running in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

It's called "The Workers Lab" and is headed by President David Rolf (also the president of SEIU Local 775) and CEO Carmen Rojas.  

So what's SEIU’s Workers Lab actually doing?
SEIU's David "Google" Rolf
According to an article published earlier this month by "BuzzFeed," the Workers Lab is buzzing with discussion of "smart phone apps," maximizing revenue streams, profit making, "monetizing" the membership, and using members for "data mining," among other topics.

For example, the center’s staff is excitedly discussing how unions and other organizations can "monetize" their members by using apps to "mine" and then sell a variety of personal data captured from workers. 

The article notes that "low-income to middle-class workers are… a demographic that plenty of outside groups with deep pockets, especially in politics, are looking to learn more about…"

Tasty won’t be surprised when SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern and his billionaire buddy, Ron Perelman, make their appearance at "The Workers Lab" sometime soon. 

Ben Geyerhahn, the CEO of BeneStream -- which is one of Any Stern's for-profit ventures -- currently serves on the Workers Lab's board of directors along with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

Here are some excerpts from the BuzzFeed article. The full text is available here.

The Workers Lab wants to train labor organizers in the language of Silicon Valley, and outfit them with the dark arts of business school, in hopes of reinvigorating what is widely seen as a dying labor movement…
It’s the last day of The Workers Lab summer institute, a two-day workshop for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to turn their big ideas for empowering workers into sustainable businesses. Though Workers Lab CEO Carmen Rojas and president David Rolf are both present, the man of the hour is clearly Stanford Business School lecturer Michael Bush. Bush has been called in as a consultant to walk the five participating projects through his nine building blocks of revenue-generation. He wears a gold watch on one wrist and a gold bracelet on the other… He says he always starts the class with the same announcement: “I’m going to talk about money.”
The Workers Lab receives funding from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, but at heart, it’s a project of the Service Employees International Union. David Rolf is president of both the lab and the SEIU’s Local 775 in Seattle, the project’s major financial backer. Rolf has been public about his lack of faith in traditional organized labor’s ability to defend the American workforce going forward into the 21st century. He says he’s committed to finding a better solution.
A big part of that commitment is The Workers Lab, an experimental, five-person organization studying whether the principles of capitalism and the structures of startup culture might produce better outcomes for workers today…
"Are you going to be for-profit?” Bush asks Chelsea Sprayregen, one-third of the founding team of a child care project that came in named “Work Hard, Play Hard” and left as “Provide.” After a second’s hesitation, she replies in the affirmative. 
“Good,” Bush said. “I like that." ...
“We need to teach people that empowerment and power are actually different,” [SEIU’s David] Rolf explains. Empowering workers, [CEO Carmen] Rojas says later, means giving them a voice, or advocating for improved conditions. Power, on the other hand, means collective action or access to capital. If that means adopting the tactics of the opposition — from dark money funds to data mining — so be it.