Friday, October 14, 2016

Purple Palace Suffers Self-Inflicted Wound through Trusteeship of SEIU Local 73

SEIU officials have carefully used their trusteeship of Chicago-based SEIU Local 73 to deliver a strategic blow… to themselves!

Here’s what happened.

For many months, Local 73’s leaders have been in discussions aimed at affiliating the 2,000-member Graduate Students United (GSU) at Columbia College Chicago, a private liberal arts college with 9,500 students.

The affiliation was intended to advance SEIU’s national campaign to unionize faculty and graduate student workers.

Then, on August 3, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry imposed an “emergency trusteeship” on Local 73 and removed the union’s president and secretary-treasurer.

During SEIU’s trusteeship hearing on September 24, Local 73’s former president, Christine Boardman, warned that the trusteeship would submarine Local 73’s affiliation discussion with graduate students.

Here’s what Boardman said in her prepared testimony:
On the downside of adjunct organizing, I can tell you that we will not get Columbia College which after they disaffiliated from the IEA, their bargaining unit was 2,000 strong. They began meeting with SEIU Local 73 regarding possible affiliation.
Diana Valera, the leader of that group, was continually asking questions about how much independence would they have and can they make their own decisions.  Putting an emergency trusteeship in place at Local 73 has definitely cooled their idea of joining our local.  Talk to Grant Williams and Sean McGough.

It looks like Boardman was right.

Last week, the 2,000-member Graduate Students United announced that its members had voted to stay with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), according to an article in The Chicago Maroon (“GSU Votes to Stay with Union Affiliation”).

AFT's Randi Weingarten
In fact, the AFT received nearly twice as many votes as SEIU Local 73. 

AFT President Randi Weingarten gushed about the AFT’s victory. Here’s how she’s quoted in a press release and news article:
“Tens of thousands of graduate students are already affiliated with the AFT, as momentum builds in our nationwide fight for them to be recognized as the higher education professionals they are,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a press release Thursday. “The AFT will be with them every step of the way.”

From the looks of things, SEIU officials implemented their trusteeship at precisely the wrong time. Mary Kay Henry seized control of Local 73 just eight weeks before graduate students began voting on whether to affiliate with the Chicago-based union. By the time that graduate students cast their ballots, Local 73 was functioning under a sort of "martial law" without any functioning constitution or system of local control.

A perfect formula for victory, right?