Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Some follow-up to our SEIU convention coverage

We did a couple of posts on the recently-held SEIU convention. Our focus was on SEIU Local 503, the larger and more influential of two SEIU locals in Oregon. We offered several leading Local 503 member-leaders access to this blog to provide their own coverage or analysis and we're waiting for their articles.

In the meantime, the Stern Burger with Fries blog followed up with this post on SEIU's relationship to the fight for a $15 minimum wage. That article opens with these paragraphs:

At SEIU’s convention in Detroit last month, SEIU officials trumpeted theirFight for $15 campaign and announced they’ll soon establish a “Fight for $15 Organizing Campaign Center.”

Apparently, it’ll be non-union.

SEIU’s top officials are denying the right of Fight for $15 organizers to join a union, according to charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Approximately 100 “Fight for $15” organizers across the US -- who are funded by SEIU but employed by subsidiary organizations such as the Western Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago -- earn wages and benefits substantially lower than those of SEIU staffers.

So on April 12, “Fight for $15” organizers formally asked SEIU officials to allow them to join the “Union of Union Representatives” (UUR), a staff union that already represents SEIU’s organizers across the nation.

The UUR’s president, Conor Hanlon, explained it this way:

"We are strong believers in the work of the Fight for $15 campaign. Our [UUR] members work side by side with non-union staff who are on the front lines of this campaign. Why, then, should Fight for $15 staff not be part of our union?"

The same blog has an important piece on the possibility of SEIU and AFSCME merging. This article opens with:

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.

Another article on the important issue of the union's stand on the democratizing the US presidential endorsement process is here.  

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