by Steve Zeltzer / Labor Video Project San Francisco <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In a well attended raucous meeting on April 13, 2009, of the San Francisco Labor Council – representing nearly all the unions in San Francisco – the Council unanimously endorsed a resolution condemning the raid by the president of SEIU International Andy Stern on Unite-Here throughout the country. (SEIU stands for Service Employees International Union – and is one of the most influential unions in the country.)
The Council also declared support for any SEIU local that “stands in opposition to this violation of union principles and practice.
The meeting was one of the most intense in some time as San Francisco Unite Here Local 2 president Mike Casey in a dramatic statement charged that the SEIU raid on his union had threatened all the work the members had done in order to get a national contract with the major hotel chains. The union had waited for years to sign a contract so their expiration dates would coincide with the expiration dates of other local’s chain hotels around the country. Casey was joined by many other SEIU rank and file delegates who said they were angered and appalled by the use of their union dues to finance a raid on another union that was fighting for their members.
Olga Miranda, the leader of SEIU Local 87 of the San Francisco janitors, had a resolution passed that had been previously introduced by her to support any SEIU local that opposed these raids. SEIU Local 87 janitors had been decertified twice in the past ten years before they were able to win back control of their local from SEIU president Andy Stern. Stern had wanted to merge their local into the statewide SEIU Local 1877.
Domita Davis Howard, a Stern appointed Executive Secretary of the 50,000 member SEIU 1021, had boycotted the meeting although she was on the SFLC Executive Board and was aware that this motion would be coming up.
Not one delegate of the over 100 delegates who attended got up to oppose the resolution and it was adopted unanimously. Included were the other members of Stern’s Change to Win unions including the UBC Carpenters, UFCW and Teamsters who were also in the meeting.
This action as well was not unique to San Francisco since similar resolutions have passed in the South Bay Labor Council and other Northern California labor councils as well as the Seattle Labor Council.
The frontal rebuff to the International SEIU and Andy Stern’s efforts to raid Unite-Here is a significant sign that the SEIU International is in danger of becoming totally isolated in California, and even threatens the continued power it has in the California labor movement as local after local bolts from the Stern operation.
In other business during the Labor Council meeting, despite pressure from the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the council by a vote of 45 to 40 refused to rescind a resolution calling on California Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop decades old criminal charges against radical Black activists called the San Francisco 8.
Another important and bitterly fought struggle was the effort to rescind the resolution backing the SF 8. These eight former Black activists were targeted by the Bush administration and California Attorney Jerry Brown after more than 30 years for a murder of a policeman in San Francisco.
Delegate Gloria La Riva reported to the council that a confession was exerted by two days of torture of two of the members by the New Orleans police with the participation of San Francisco policeman. Others pointed out that this was a political witch hunt and that these activists were union members including of the IBEW and other unions and had contributed to society for many years.
The Council also had a sharp debate about rescinding a resolution that directed the San Francisco Labor Council Secretary Treasurer Tim Paulson to send a letter to the Board Of Supervisors that the 113 Steuart Building in San Francisco which was the ILA headquarters during the 1934 general strike. After an extended debate the resolution was defeated in a close vote.
The growing internal war in the labor movement and the failure of the trade unions to mobilize their members against the growing attack on working people is creating anger among union members who want their unions to use their power to fight for jobs and justice on the job and in the street.
Here are links to the resolutions passed by the SF Labor Council: