BERKELEY, Calif.- More than 50 prominent educators, writers, and worker advocates have sent a letter to SEIU President Andy Stern denouncing his ongoing campaign of retaliation against union members in SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW). Members of UHW and their elected leaders have been leading a reform movement within SEIU for greater democracy and more involvement of rank-and-file members in decision-making.
In May, many labor scholars became concerned that SEIU leaders were threatening UHW with trusteeship, a process that would replace UHW’s democratically elected leaders with a trustee appointed directly by Andy Stern. SEIU officials assured the public that the fears were completely unfounded, and that no trustreeship was planned. Contrary to those assurances, SEIU has recently moved forward with proceedings to put UHW into trusteeship, with a final hearing on the matter opening this Wednesday, Nov. 12.
The endorsers of the letter write that such a takeover “would be a disaster for the California labor movement (and SEIU nationally).”
Signers include the writer and UC Riverside Professor Mike Davis; UCSF Professor of Sociology and Nursing Charlene Harrington; UCLA Historian and Economist Robert Brenner; and the presidents of the Los Angeles and Oakland teachers’ unions, Betty Olson-Jones of the Oakland Education Association and A. J. Duffy of the United Teachers of Los Angeles.
Full text of the letter follows.
An Open Letter of Concern to Andy Stern About United Healthcare Workers-West From California Educators, Academics, Writers and Worker Advocates
November 9, October 2008
Mr. Andy Stern
Service Employees International Union
1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Andy Stern:
On May Day, 2008, more than 100 scholars, writers and activists, many of them longstanding supporters of SEIU, wrote to you and urged
reconsideration of any plan to place United Healthcare Workers-West in trusteeship. That public letter said: “Putting UHW under trusteeship would send a very troubling message and be viewed, by many, as a sign that internal democracy is not valued or tolerated within SEIU.”
The letter endorsers were told, at the time, that no such plan existed and that UHW statements about this matter were simply not true. Such reassurances were received in a personal message from SEIU EVPs Eliseo Medina and Gerry Hudson and in a letter signed by 47 other SEIU leaders. As recently as July, the threat of an international union take-over of UHW was dismissed as a “myth” by SEIU IEB member Stephen Lerner (in an exchange of views posted on MRZine).
Now, we’ve learned that you indeed ordered UHW trusteeship hearings. These began in San Mateo on September 26 and 27 and are scheduled to resume and conclude next week in San Jose. Moreover, you have gone ahead despite an enormous outpouring of opposition from UHW members and others, including the protest in Manhattan Beach by 5,000 SEIU members opposed to the arbitrary
removal of 60,000 UHW-represented workers to Local 6434 in Los Angeles. More than 8000 members protested at the San Mateo hearings. At the same time, the media has reported very serious allegations of corruption involving Local 6434 President Tyrone Freeman, which have led to his removal by your office and an on-going investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor that could lead to criminal charges against him. It would appear that those home care and nursing home workers faced with the possibility of forced transfer from
UHW to Freeman’s local have had good reason to resist.
We in California have, of course, a great deal at stake in the outcome of these disputes. The trusteeship fears of UHW seem to be very
well-founded. While a clean-up of 6434 may require outside intervention, we believe that a simultaneous, unjustified take- over of 150,000 member UHW would be a disaster for the California labor movement (and SEIU nationally). It would further disrupt current contract negotiations with major health care employers, while also impeding much-needed political action to defend state worker jobs in health, education and other public services. As the May Day letter endorsers did last spring, we urge you to “avoid such a tragedy”–by
respecting the autonomy and constructive dissent of UHW.
Frank Bardacke, Writer, Labor Educator and Founder, Third World Teaching Resource Center
Martin Bennett, Professor of History, Santa Rosa Junior College, Executive Board, North Bay Labor Council
Jeff Blankfort, Radio Host, KZYX, Mendocino Public Radio
Gillian C. Boal, Rare Book Conservator, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
Iain A. Boal, Professor of Social History, UC Santa Cruz
Gray Brechin, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Geography, UC Berkeley; Project Scholar of the California Living New Deal Project.
Bob Brenner, Director, Center for Social Theory & Comparative History, UCLA
Summer Brenner, Environmental Justice Activist, Berkeley
Charles Briggs, Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley
James Brook, poet, San Francisco
Jose Calderon, Professor, Sociology and Chicano Studies, Pitzer College
Jamie Court, President, Consumer Watchdog
Mike Davis, Writer and Professor, Creative Writing, UC Riverside
A. J. Duffy, President, United Teachers of Los Angeles
Judy Dugan, Research Director, Consumer Watchdog
Barry Eidlin, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Richard Flacks, Professor of Sociology, University of California Santa Barbara
Jack Gerson, Executive Board and Bargaining Team, Oakland Education Association
David Goldberg, Treasurer, United Teachers of Los Angeles
Charlene Harrington, Professor of Sociology and Nursing, UC San Francisco
Dan Hodges Chair, Health Care for All-California
Ramsey Kanaan, PM Press, Oakland
John Kramer, Professor of Political Science, California State University Sonoma
Karl Kramer, Treasurer, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement – San Francisco, Campaign Co-director, San Francisco Living Wage oalition
Jack Kurzweil, Former President (San Jose State University Chapter),
California Faculty Association, SEIU 1983
Sasha Lilley, Program Director, KPFA
Dr. Arthur Lipow, Center for Global Peace & Democracy, Alameda
Jeff Lustig, Professor, Political Science Dept. CSU Sacramento.
Joseph Matthews, Attorney
Nathanael Matthiesen, Sociology, University of California, Irvine
Tom Mertes, Administrator, Center for Social Theory & Comparative History, UCLA
Franco Moretti, Professor of Literature, Stanford University
Claudia Moura, Professor, Social Science, Santa Rosa Junior College
Betty Olson-Jones, President, Oakland Education Association
Raj Patel, Writer, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley
Richard Perry, J.D., Ph.D. Professor of Justice Studies San Jose’ State University
Vivian Price, Coordinator, Labor Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Melvin Pritchard, Professor of History, West Valley College
Tom Reifer, Sociology, University of San Diego; Associate Fellow, Transnational Institute
Teri Reynolds, MD, PhD, Past delegate, Alameda County Medical Center Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU
Bill Shields, Chair, Community and Labor Studies, City College of San Francisco
Faith Simon, Mendocino Institute
Norman Solomon, Institute for Public Accuracy, Author, War Made Easy
Vanessa Tait, author, Poor Workers’ Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below, Member, UPTE-CWA Local 9119, UC Berkeley
Kay Trimberger, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, California State University Sonoma
Richard A. Walker, Chair, California Studies Center, UC Berkeley
Katharine Wallerstein, Executive Director, The Global Commons Foundation
David Walls, Professor of Sociology, California State University, Sonoma
Michael Watts, Professor of Geography, UC Berkeley
Cal Winslow, Fellow, Environmental Politics, UC Berkeley, Director Mendocino Institute
Eddie Yuen, Author, editor and radio producer
*affiliations listed for identification only