Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Merger between SEIU and AFSCME?

SEIU's Mary Kay Henry and AFSCME's Lee Saunders
Here’s another item from the recently concluded SEIU Convention in Detroit:  the resolution calling for SEIU and AFSCME to work collaboratively and to explore a full-blown merger. A full copy of the resolution is below.

The proposal reportedly has been under discussion for a year by a committee formed by the two unions.

According to Tasty’s sources, the two unions’ merger discussions are driven by concerns about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court case that could weaken public-sector unions by challenging their right to collect fair share fees from nonmembers to cover the costs of representation, such as negotiating contracts.

Together, SEIU and AFSCME represent approximately 3 million public-sector workers.

In December of 2015, the two unions held a first-ever meeting between their lawyers “to share ideas and best practices to deal with issues confronting all public employees, such as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association…” 

The three-day event began with a panel discussion by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Steve Fantauzzo (Chief of Staff to AFSCME President Lee Saunders), and each union’s general counsel.

In February, the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court deadlocked on the Friedrichs case, with Senate Republicans subsequently refusing to consider Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat.

Scalia’s death appears to have slowed the two unions’ plan for a full merger. The resolution approved at SEIU’s convention holds open the possibility of a full-blown merger while immediately calling for the establishment of “unity partnerships” between the two unions at the local, state, and national levels in order to carry out joint planning, organizing, bargaining, and political work.

These “unity partnerships” sound a lot like the “unity councils” established by former SEIU President Andy Stern, which were intended to coordinate activities between SEIU locals. 

However, Stern’s manipulation of the “unity councils” -- including the Purple Palace’s blunt rigging of their votes -- was one of the actions that pushed California healthcare workers to rebel against SEIU’s top officials in 2008.

The following are excerpts from the resolution recently passed at SEIU’s convention, entitled “AFSCME and SEIU: Unstoppable Unions that Never Quit.” 

In a stunning display of their newfound coordination, the resolution’s title manages to include both SEIU’s and AFSCME’s 2016 convention themes: “Unstoppable” and “Never Quit.” Tasty can only imagine the multiple planning meetings needed to devise convention themes that could be wrapped together into a single resolution title!

AFSCME will presumably consider a similar resolution at its upcoming International Convention in Las Vegas on July 18-22. Here are the excerpts:
Our vision requires the creation of “unity partnerships” at the national, state and local levels. Unity partnerships may include some or all of the following activities: joint goal setting and planning; joint bargaining and representational activities where we have a common employer and coordinated bargaining where we represent workers in the same industry and labor market; joint setting of priorities and strategies where we deal with the same legislative and/or administrative bodies; joint political activity where we share an interest in electoral outcomes; and joint communication, legal, mobilization and research strategies and activities to support our work…
Based on the durability and effectiveness of the partnerships that are developed at the national, state and local levels, we will explore ways to deepen and expand our collaborative efforts, including consideration of an institutional merger that would formally unite the strengths of both our unions to create a new entity…
Our unions will convene a joint committee to foster the collaboration that we envision and to review and modify our process as needed. The International Executive Boards of SEIU and AFSCME shall be empowered to modify or end the collaboration between our unions described in this resolution. Any proposed structural changes must be recommended by both international Executive Boards and shall be submitted to a vote in accordance with each union’s constitution and bylaws.

While the last sentence references “a vote,” it doesn’t indicate who would be allowed to participate in the votes.