The Die is Cast: SEIU Board Votes to Dismember UHW-W

By Paul Garver

On 9 January SEIU’s International Executive Board (IEB) approved a Resolution of Jurisdiction for California Long-Term Care Workers that chartered a new local union for California long-term care workers, merging Local 6434 with the long-term care workers currently represented by UHW-W and the homecare workers represented by Local 521. The electronic vote was reportedly 47 for, 7 against, and 3 abstaining. UHW-W members, facing loss of 40% of their membership, are requesting a vote to disaffiliate from SEIU.

The IEB resolution supported an August 2008 recommendation by Hearing Officer Leonard Page, and cited an “advisory vote” of affected SEIU members in which the majority of votes cast by the 8% who actually voted preferred this option to the only other option offered, that would create a broader new statewide healthcare local union. Since either option selected would entail the removal of UHW-W’s existing leadership and the replacement by appointees of SEIU president Andy Stern, a large majority of UHW-W members actively boycotted the vote and massively signed protest letters and petitions. Local 6434 was already in trusteeship because of major financial malfeisance by its appointed president Tyrone Freeman.

The IEB resolution cited SEIU’s 2008 Convention Resolution 206a that encouraged the creation of statewide unions of long-term care workers. It is unclear how this resolution is being implemented in other states, some of which reportedly retain SEIU locals that include both hospital and long-term care workers. An SEIU press release further expresses the organizational rationale of the national leadership for the action. However many observers view the action as part of a protracted struggle to eliminate dissident UHW-W local leadership that are challenging national SEIU policies.

UHW-W members predictably reacted by demanding a vote to disaffiliate from the national union. The UHW-W Executive Board sent a letter on 9 January to President Stern, advising him that there was “widespread and profound opposition within our membership to any efforts to dismember our local union or take away its rights of democratic governance.” However under a new clause passed at the SEIU’s 2008 Convention, “no officer of a local union…shall support or assist any efforts to dissolve, secede, or disaffiliate from the International.Union.” The UHW-W leaders pledged to refrain from actively supporting or assisting the disaffiliation efforts, while at the same time reminding Pres. Stern of his constitutional obligation to schedule the disaffiliation vote requested by rank-and-file UHW-W members.

It appears probable that Pres. Stern will use the request for a disaffiliation vote by UHW-W members as grounds to remove UHW-W’s leaders and place the local union under trusteeship, a decision that is expected by 22 January, when the IEB meets to consider a recommendation by Hearing Officer Ray Marshall on an earlier attempt to impose a trusteeship on UHW-W.

This is a major development, with likely political consequences in California and nationally. Escalating internecine conflict within SEIU may well endanger the passage of legislation improving worker rights and other items on the progressive agenda.

One Response

  1. […] however, the constitution forbids officers from supporting this ballot. According to the UHW, Stern requested the inclusion of this language into the constitution last year: “no officer of a local union […]

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