Wednesday, September 14, 2016

UNITE HERE Leaders: SEIU Is Undermining the U.S. Labor Movement

Andy Stern: Pimping for the plutocrats
Two leaders at UNITE HERE have penned a sharp critique of SEIU.

The piece, entitled “Labor’s Neoliberal Caucus” in Jacobin Magazine, criticizes SEIU for pushing a boss-friendly, “neoliberal” style of unionism that’s undermining the US labor movement.

The authors -- Warren Heyman (an international vice president of UNITE HERE) and Andrew Tillett-Saks (the organizing director for UNITE HERE Local 217) -- define “neoliberal unionism” as “a unionism that espouses collaboration with corporations instead of conflict and upholds free-market capitalism as reconcilable with labor’s interests.”

According to the article, the “modern wave” of this boss-friendly unionism “is rooted in SEIU and its former president Andy Stern’s push for neoliberal unionism in the 2000s.”

Stern, who made backroom deals with CEOs as SEIU’s president and also tried to stamp out internal critics through trusteeships, has continued walking down the same ideological path since his retirement.

Only days after retiring, Stern accepted tens of thousands of shares of stock and a fully paid job from Ron Perelman, a billionaire corporate raider who’s one of the world’s richest men. Perelman has showered Stern with gifts in apparent exchange for sweetheart labor deals that Stern negotiated from SEIU's Purple Palace in Washington DC, including a deal with one of Perelman's many companies, AlliedBarton.

Here’s an excerpt from Heyman’s and Tillett-Saks’ article regarding Stern’s role in pushing neoliberal unionism:
Stern explicitly and aggressively pushed the labor movement to adopt a “collaborationist” approach towards capital; according to the Stern ideology, workers and unions don’t have to fight corporations, just build “relationships” with them and cajole them into a mutually beneficial partnership.
In this spirit, Stern and SEIU amassed a lengthy record of striking deals with corporations that sold out workers’ ability to fight in exchange for promises of union recognition… SEIU expanded, but what expanded was a neutered shell of a labor movement, full of members with preposterous contracts and little ability to fight for better.
Stern is gone but his ideological legacy remains… From embracing free-market capitalism to embracing employers to embracing their political representatives, the political and intellectual lineage is clear.

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan is clearly one of Stern’s disciples.

Regan famously inked a secret deal with the California Hospital Association that banned strikes, forced workers into pre-negotiated contracts with stripped-down wages and benefits, and imposed a gag clause that blocked SEIU members from criticizing their employers or mentioning their CEOs’ sky-high salaries.

On Labor Day of 2014, Regan famously told NBC-LA TV News that the idea of strikes and “adversarial relationships” between workers and corporations is “outdated.” Instead, says Regan, unions must “collaborate” with corporate CEOs to create a new “teamwork” economy.

Below, see a two-minute excerpt from Regan’s NBC TV interview in which he describes his vision of SEIU's idea of "21st century" unionism.

Heyman and Tillett-Saks conclude their article by issuing a call to arms to US workers and unions, who they say must confront and battle SEIU inside the US labor movement.
The proliferation of this model of unionism would spell disaster for the American labor movement. Our movement’s success depends on how widely and how militantly we can organize workers to fight corporate power and the 1 percent, not embrace them.
Union members and leaders must do everything in their power to halt the march of neoliberal unionism, before they march the labor movement straight into its grave. 

What does "neoliberal unionism" look like? Check out this 2-minute excerpt from Regan’s interview with NBC TV News on Labor Day, 2014: