A New Union Democracy Movement is Born in SEIU

by on March 12, 2008 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Organizing

FAIRFIELD, CA — Alarmed by moves that have made our union look increasingly more like a corporation, workers in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are forming a rank-and-file caucus to restore the heart and soul of the labor movement to SEIU: union democracy.

SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today (SMART) is an organization of rank-and-file members of SEIU who believe that members are the real source of strength for our union and the people behind every victory. Members have fought for years in our work sites, in the streets, and in the halls of government to make SEIU the largest and strongest union in the country — now 1.9 million workers strong. Members also know that growth is critical to our success, and to rebuilding a fighting labor movement — but not growth at all costs, and not without full participation of the members.

“I support the SMART platform because I believe every SEIU member must have the right to vote on our contracts and elect our negotiating teams and International Union officers.” Catherine Alexander, SEIU Local 521 Shop Steward, Santa Clara County Libraries.

For the sake of growth at all costs, some recent agreements orchestrated by Andy Stern and SEIU’s leadership in Washington D.C. have traded away high contract standards, limited members’ free speech and ability to protect the public we serve, and compromised our right to strike. All this has been done without real member involvement.

Many in SEIU have grave concerns that in recent years, Andy Stern and the International Union’s leadership in Washington, D.C., has drifted away from our membership, forgetting that we are the ones who make our union strong. Dozens of mergers have been imposed without any member involvement or truly democratic procedures, resulting in the replacement of elected leaders with appointed ones. Constitutional changes have given the president and International Union’s Executive Board unprecedented powers to force coordinated bargaining, appoint our bargaining teams, and settle our contracts.

SEIU members have therefore created SMART to remind our leaders that this is a union of, by, and for the members. After all, it is the members who pay our union leaders’ salaries, members who fight to win every day in the workplace, and members who are the political voice and the most effective organizers of new workers.

“Our goals are to prevent abuses of power by SEIU leaders, to preserve union democracy and member-driven decision-making,” said SMART Activist Maya Morris. “We can continue to attain SEIU’s incredible growth without giving up our core standards and our traditions of democracy and member leadership.”

SMART will be proposing a Reform Platform at SEIU’s quadrennial convention, to be held in June. Already, members from numerous SEIU local unions have signed on to support our platform, which calls for increased transparency and greater member democracy. More information can be found online at www.reformseiu.org.

Contact: Zev Kvitky
Date: March 12, 2008
Phone: (415) 786-2153
E-Mail: zk_wolf@yahoo.com

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