CHAPTER 26                  2008 Convention Seeks ‘Justice For All’                      Stern Reports SEIU Passes Two Mil...
194                                                                                                       STRONGER TOGETHE...
2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’                                                                                   ...
196                                                                                 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIUru...
2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’                                                                                   ...
198                                                                                                 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE...
2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’                                                                                   ...
200                                                                                       STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF ...
2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’                                                                                   ...
Chapter 26   2008 convention seeks 'justice for all' - La Convention 2008 demande "justice pour tous"
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Chapter 26 2008 convention seeks 'justice for all' - La Convention 2008 demande "justice pour tous"


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Each convention under Stern had a theme and program. It had been Bold Action in 1996, New Strength Unity in 2000, and Seven Strengths in 2004. For 2008, SEIU’s program was called “Justice for All.”

Toutes les conventions sous la présidence d'Andy Stern avait un thème et un programme. Ce fut "Bold Action" en 1996, "New Strength Unity" en 2000, et "Seven Strengths" en 2004. Pour 2008, le programme de SEIU s'appelait "Justice For All".

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Chapter 26 2008 convention seeks 'justice for all' - La Convention 2008 demande "justice pour tous"

  1. 1. CHAPTER 26 2008 Convention Seeks ‘Justice For All’ Stern Reports SEIU Passes Two Million MembersW ith a calculator in his hand that linked to a super-sized video screen on stage, Andy Stern clearly had somethingimportant to say and the delegates to SEIU’s 2008 convention new members each year from 1988 through 1996. Each in- crease in numbers was another building block that helped cre- ate a powerful movement for workers. And that new strengthin Puerto Rico knew it. translated directly into SEIU’s ability to win wage and bene t e SEIU president began by admitting a mistake: the gains at the bargaining table and a better life for members anddelegates’ packets showed the union’s membership had risen to their families.1,896,000. “But now I have an apology,” Stern said. “ at e new growth came under some di cult conditions asmembership gure is wrong.” well. e 2004 convention had committed the union to ex- With the calculator ashing new numbers on the screen, pand organizing in the South and Southwest—regions of thehe told the delegates they needed to add 55,000 more members United States that include many states historically hostile tofrom the newly a liated State Employees Association of North organized labor. With the huge victories of Houston janitorsCarolina. And 7,000 more security guards from Minnesota. and University of Miami cleaners and sta , SEIU had brokenAnd 22,000 new personal care assistants in Massachusetts. And through in property services—in part because of the supportanother 23,000 child care providers in Pennsylvania. from the union’s New York City and Chicago janitors. Stern Each time a new and higher calculator total ashed could report in 2008 that the union had grown to representoverhead. 100,000 workers in the South and Southwest. “And if you add the other 20,000 new members who Building on SEIU members’ combined political strengthrecently joined the SEIU, I think we are about to turn an- in California, the union expanded its home care workers baseother page of labor history,” Stern told the delegates. “From there and, in turn, used that strength to reach out to 345,000this day forward, we can recognize SEIU—two million other home care workers in the rest of California, Oregon,members strong.” Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and parts It was a huge accomplishment and one that local union of Wisconsin. Home care workers, with each new contract,activists in the hall that day had helped achieve. ey reacted were “Invisible No More,” gaining more pay, health coverage,with great enthusiasm. and other improvements.177 For SEIU to hit the two-million-member mark meant the By pooling the nancial and political strength of localsunion had added one million new members since new leader- throughout the country, the union had helped 49,000 childship took over the union in 1996. In the decade from 1997 care providers in Illinois win union representation in 2005.through 2007, the average number of workers joining SEIU at model then was used to unite more than 75,000 familyeach year was 96,000—more than triple the average of 30,000 child care providers to win pay and bene t increases.
  2. 2. 194 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIU Using strength gained from SEIU’s global relationships, of support services to governments, businesses, hospitals, localthe union won an agreement with Securitas, the largest security school systems, universities, and other institutions. Together,company in the world (based in Sweden), and then worked to the two unions won agreements with two of the three multi-organize thousands of mostly African American security o cers services rms to respect workers’ right to form a union throughto raise wages and gain healthcare. majority sign-up. By the time of the 2008 convention, more Pooling resources and coordinating strategies across the than 14,000 workers in multiservices had unionized. ( eunion successfully reduced employer interference in scores of merger of UNITE HERE collapsed in 2009. About 100,000hospital organizing campaigns in California, Colorado, Con- members, largely from the former UNITE, then joined SEIU asnecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, “Workers United.” e breakup of UNITE HERE came aboutOhio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, because of di culties within that union. e move of WorkersWashington, and Wisconsin—as well as in Puerto Rico and United to SEIU proved very contentious and led to attacks onCanada. More than 33,000 nurses and other hospital workers SEIU by other unions. SEIU repeatedly sought a negotiatedhad joined SEIU since the previous convention in 2004. settlement with UNITE HERE in 2009–2010, but no agree- In the multiservices sector, SEIU had worked with another ment had been reached as this book went to press.)national union, UNITE HERE, to expand unionization in a Gains in Puerto Rico, including public sector collectivesector dominated by three huge global corporations (Sodexo, bargaining, led to new contracts there. And SEIU grew by moreCompass, and Aramark) that contract to provide a wide range than 13,000 workers in Canada, making it the fastest-growingSEIU President Andy Stern told delegates to the 2008 convention that the union had grown to more than two million members. at represented a gain of morethan 1 million members since Stern and his new leadership team took o ce in 1996. He emphasized that the point of organizing was not numbers, but building thestrength to win economic, political, and social justice gains for SEIU workers.
  3. 3. 2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’ 195 Implicit in the contrast of “justice for all” instead of “just us” was a rebuke of a strategy solely focused on leaders negotiat- ing contracts that only address certain members’ goals rather than improving conditions for all members. Members can’t win at the bargaining table without a parallel strategy to organize nonunion workers at the same employer or in the same type of work. For a long period, the union had concentrated its resources in California to build density and workers’ strength. But with national healthcare employers, such as HCA and Te- net, it was time to employ more SEIU resources throughout the country. While some leaders balked, workers understood that ifConvention delegates including Laphonza Butler adopted a program callingfor “Justice for All.” ey urged further resources for organizing and political their employers were nonunion elsewhere in the United States,accountability and demanded that Congress pass healthcare reform, the their own strength ultimately would be weakened.Employee Free Choice Act, and comprehensive immigration reform. Another area of disagreement was over how the unionunion there. Coordinated campaigns with global labor federa- should proceed on its restructuring plans in California to aligntions and about 20 individual unions around the world helped members e ectively. A small but vocal segment of delegates, ledSEIU win new members and improved workplace standards for by Sal Rosselli from United Healthcare Workers West, stronglyabout 60,000 workers in multinational corporations in SEIU opposed uniting the strength of home care and nursing homeindustries in other countries. workers from his local into a statewide SEIU long term care Each convention under Stern had a theme and program. local that would include workers from two other local unionsIt had been Bold Action in 1996, New Strength Unity in 2000, doing the same type of work. is was designed in part toand Seven Strengths in 2004. For 2008, SEIU’s program was strengthen long term care workers’ voice in the state legislature,called “Justice for All.” which controlled the funding for these services. e restruc- SEIU could achieve its goals only “if we stand for ‘justice turing also sought to focus UHW on organizing the 100,000for all,’ and not for ‘just us,’” the primary convention resolu- nonunion hospital workers in California.tion stated. e message was that SEIU had a mission to unite Rosselli and his forces made little headway at the conven-workers and win a better life for all working people. tion, perhaps because the rank-and- le delegates saw them posi- “Today’s union members cannot expect to maintain and tioned as the “Just Us” element of the debate—at odds with theimprove our living standards and working conditions if the solidarity implicit in SEIU’s theme of “Justice for All.”percentage of union members in our industries and our society e convention delegates, the highest governing author-continues to decline,” the resolution warned. ity of the union, resolved the issues overwhelmingly in favor By moving to pool its strength, SEIU had been able to of the leadership, but the rift would go on for many monthsgrow and to win major economic and workplace gains for its after the convention. Rosselli resigned from SEIU membershipmembers. Its bargaining, political, membership, and nancial in January 2009 after the local was placed in trusteeship forstrength had created new possibilities for organizing. nancial malpractice and refusal to abide by SEIU’s jurisdiction
  4. 4. 196 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIUruling. He had formed his own union secretly while at SEIUand later announced he would compete for UHW members. Ayear later, the rival union had no members under contract (seeChapter 31).S EIU remained united around the idea that future chal- lenges would require continuation of its ability to changeand adapt. Polling data revealed that about 50 percent of U.S.workers would choose to have a union if they didn’t face em-ployer opposition—an unorganized body of some 40 millionworkers to be organized. the public and private sectors. In 2008, more than ve But union leaders laid out what they termed “stark reali- million people worked for companies controlled by corpo-ties” standing in the way: rate buyout rms that had no industry focus. ose rms instead have as their goal taking steps to maximize pro ts Relations Board could no longer be counted on to protect for a limited group of executives. workers’ freedom to form a union. In most cases, NLRB In SEIU’s core sectors, corporate buyout rms had taken procedures took too long, left too much room for employ- ownership of the nation’s largest o ce building landlord, er interference and intimidation, and imposed little or no Equity O ce Properties; the largest for-pro t hospital penalty for violations of the law. chain, HCA; the nation’s largest nursing home chains, Bev- Most employers refused to respect workers’ right to form erly Enterprises (since renamed Golden Living Centers) a union without management intimidation. Too often, and Mariner Health Group; and the largest U.S.-based SEIU had to conduct corporate social responsibility cam- provider of cleaning and food services, Aramark. paigns that held the employer accountable for the full e percentage of overall unionization in the private sec- range of ways its policies and practices a ected the larger tor had dropped below 8 percent, and two-thirds of public community. at takes money, political strength, and the employees in 2008 had no union either. In the other core ability to campaign e ectively throughout the nation or SEIU sectors of healthcare and property services, 90 per- worldwide. cent of all workers had no union. SEIU industries and employers increasingly operated on Virtually all population growth in the United States in a regional, national, or global basis. ey moved capital the next 20 years would be in southern and western states from one place to another with growing ease and drove where unionization is lowest. ose states increasingly down pay and bene t standards in one location, which would have an economic impact on pay and bene t stan- in turn helps drive them down everywhere. Employers’ dards for the nation, so if SEIU failed to help workers there increased size allowed them to exercise far more political unite to win gains, the pressure would be greater to reduce pressure than a purely local employer could. standards in the rest of the country. Capital had blurred the lines across industries and between
  5. 5. 2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’ 197 Industries growing the fastest generally had been those based on the integrated plans of each division, their locals, and with the least unionization. the South/Southwest, and also will include opportunities and e experiences of some of the major U.S. industrial, con- challenges that cross industries and regions. Local unions will struction, and transportation unions remained a stark re- continue to have organizing programs as part of an overall divi- minder that SEIU could not expect to win or maintain sion plan. e overall SEIU strategy will include a numerical high union standards for “just us,” as an island in an in- goal for the whole union, each division, the South/Southwest, creasingly nonunion economic sea.178 cross-division opportunities, and each local union—and will be approved by the International Executive Board. SEIU leaders told the delegates that “while we have dou- By 2012, SEIU will have united more than 500,000 morebled spending on organizing in four years, we have not doubled workers, the largest four-year increase in strength by any unionour results. Our spending to help each new worker join us has in modern history.increased greatly, which jeopardizes our ability to unite more at will make SEIU the largest and strongest union thatworkers faster.” includes private sector workers that North America has ever Spending per member on representation and other non-or- seen, with more than 2.5 million members.ganizing activity had increased substantially from 1999 through It also is expected that, if we are able to enact the Em-2007, but without signi cant enough increases in member sat- ployee Free Choice Act (EFCA) with a new U.S. Congress andisfaction, according to polls and other research. President, SEIU will unite a total of at least one million more While many SEIU local unions were spending at least 20 workers by 2012.percent of their budget on organizing, gures showed that atleast $37 million that should be spent on organizing by localswas not being spent—money badly needed to help pay for larg-er-scale strategies. “SEIU members and our allies have shown that we canovercome all obstacles if we choose to unite our strength behinda bold common strategy,” the leadership recommendation tothe convention delegates stated. “We have the chance of a life-time if we make the choice of a lifetime.” After much debate, the program that was adopted and thatcharted SEIU’s course through to 2012, included the following:1. Involve all local unions jointly to develop one national strategy for uniting more workers with SEIU to win gains for working people on a much larger scale. SEIU will have one strategy for uniting more workers andraising standards for all workers in our industries. It will be
  6. 6. 198 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIU Local union leaders will collaborate as national leaders for ganizing to unite with us. A new program—MOR (Membertheir industry to make a united national strategy for their divi- Organizing Reserves)—will expand member involvement insion based on a long-term vision for members and an initial organizing campaigns and will work with the divisions to helpfour-year action program. sta large campaigns. And another program—SEIU Organiz- rough the divisions, local unions will collectively de- ing Corps—will be modeled after the Peace Corps or Teach forcide—instead of deciding individually—where to prioritize ef- America. It will involve temporary organizers who are inter-forts for the best chance of large-scale gains for workers. ested in doing social justice work for a portion of their life, but Every local union will set aside 20 percent of its post-per who are unsure of what work they want to do in the long term.capita budget to organizing in a separate fund. e union will give high priority to providing members e International Union’s resources will be used to imple- with the opportunity to go to nonunion locations and meetment the one national strategy. with not-yet-union workers. All levels of the union will be accountable for their contri- SEIU will use its bargaining and political strength to unitebution to the strategy. more workers with us for everyone’s bene t. Mechanisms for ere will be regular unionwide review and evaluation involving current members to use their strength to help moreof progress. workers at national employers to unite with us should be de- veloped nationally through the divisions. Divisions may des-2. Involve current members in helping more workers to ignate strategic global/national/regional employers or sectors/ unite with us for everyone’s bene t. subsectors where a comprehensive unionwide strategy o ers SEIU members have been very e ective at reaching out to the potential for breakthroughs in uniting more workers andnot-yet-union counterparts who do similar work and are or- raising standards. 3. Help build a stronger union movement, as we are all stronger together. SEIU will help other unions in Change to Win to unite more workers in their industries. We will increase our capacity to conduct campaigns involving multinational corporations in other countries on behalf of members in SEIU and Change to Win industries. We will work with union allies in other countries to in- crease the capacity to unite workers to improve living standards and working conditions in common industries and multina- tional corporations. We will deepen the involvement of SEIU local union activ- ists in SEIU’s global work and will track employer globalizationA delegate from Local 6434 heard speakers call for unifying California home trends in all SEIU workers in one local to build greater bargaining and political leverage.
  7. 7. 2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’ 199 information in their own language, help solve job-related prob- lems using new technologies, and be available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Every local would be o ered the opportunity to participate. e new initiatives grew out of years of work by SEIU’s Lo- cal Union Strength Committee made up of a team of local lead- ers from across North America who identi ed innovations that were aimed at making the union more responsive and involving rank-and- le members in building a better future. e com- mittee, as part of its work, examined a number of creative ap- proaches utilized by unions in other countries, such as Australia. Out of the discussions came recommendations for pilot projects following the convention for the new member centers.SEIU’s 2008 convention was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In addition, the Local Union Strength Committee proposed freeing up of local union leaders by programs that would poolT he “Justice for All” program also called for new e orts to build a permanent pro-worker political majority; win af-fordable, quality healthcare for all; create an economy that re- administrative functions, such as accounting, dues processing, and list management, so more time could be spent on core union priorities.wards work, including the freedom to form a union without By 2010, SEIU had implemented a number of the Localemployer interference; win comprehensive immigration reform; Union Strength Committee’s proposals. e union launched aand improve quality services in the community with fair, reli- new state-of-the-art Member Action Service Center near De-able funding. troit, Michigan. It o ered members instant access to trained, To get there, the union proposed involving 200,000 mem- multilingual sta who sought to respond promptly to individu-bers—10 percent of the total membership—in leadership roles al member questions and issues. Members, for example, couldand one million members in member action. get answers to bene t questions and help with ling grievances. “Member action and participation on a whole new scale e program reported 80 percent of members had their ques-also will further expand democracy in our union,” the recom- tions answered or problems solved with just one phone call.mendations approved by the 2008 convention delegates noted. Convention delegates also rea rmed the importance of ex-“Real worker democracy includes majority participation in the panding diversity at all levels of the union.actual activities of the union that aim to improve workers’ lives.” In 1996, prior to the major leadership change in SEIU, In addition, the program called for providing every mem- 68 percent of the 50 largest locals were run by white men. Butber with not only increased opportunities for involvement and with the change agenda that SEIU implemented in the follow-leadership, but also an increased level of responsiveness and ing 12 years, the leadership became more diverse, with only 38member satisfaction through Member Resource Centers. ose percent of those big locals being run by white males. Of the 10centers would use trained sta that could provide members with largest locals, four were led by African Americans and ve by
  8. 8. 200 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIUwomen. African Americans, Latinos, and women had assumed eryone around the decision-making table is on the same page.”leadership positions over that time on the union’s International e councils were directed to establish and coordinate a can-Executive Board and Executive Committee as well.179 didate endorsement process for all of the locals within a state. On the political front, SEIU’s endorsed candidate for Pres- With money being the mother’s milk of politics, the 2008ident, Barack Obama, was on the verge of achieving su cient convention approved plans urging that 20 percent of every localdelegates to ensure he would be the Democratic Party nominee union’s members contribute an average of at least $7 per monthfor President. But SEIU convention delegates called for an even to the SEIU COPE program (the union’s political action com-broader e ort to build a permanent pro-worker political major- mitee), with higher goals to follow. Locals would be expected toity in the United States. increase the number of member volunteers and member politi- “As the leading advocacy organization for working people cal organizers as North America, SEIU has both the opportunity and the re- e delegates backed expanded civic participation and newsponsibility to play a leadership role in building that majority work with communities of color and immigrant members andcoalition based on issues important to working people, rather families, as well as setting the goal for local unions to register atthan the interests of particular political parties or candidates,” least 80 percent of their eligible members to vote by 2010 andthe adopted resolution stated. 90 percent by 2012. SEIU also committed to expand the broad Delegates called for “even more emphasis on holding pub- electorate by providing leadership to America Votes’ state-basedlic o cials accountable after they are elected and not just hop- and national that they will stand up for working people.” Delegates voted to help build a progressive political and Top federal priorities singled out by the 2008 convention policy infrastructure and develop expertise in framing issueswere: for the public. SEIU committed to supporting technology passage of universal healthcare reform; and information-based organizations that can strengthen the Employee Free Choice Act; progressive movement. comprehensive immigration reform; and With political accountability a theme, the union voted to quality commit at least $10 million to 2008-2009 post-election politi- public services in communities. cal accountability work and also to build a multilevel grassroots In addition, delegates endorsed adoption of pension re- rapid response system to hold members of Congress and lo-form and a commitment for a speci c Iraq War exit strategy in cal elected o cials accountable. Included were additional re-2008 or 2009 that would bring troops home and allow redirect- sources in issue-based and electoral accountability campaignsing war spending to vital needs at home. that SEIU leads or helps with, such as ey Work for Us and To carry out the SEIU political and legislative program, all Working for Us PAC.locals were to continue to dedicate at least 10 percent of their e delegates also voted to expand political communica-resources to political work in 2008-2010, at least 11 percent tions systems, voter information tracking systems, and thein 2011, and at least 12 percent in 2012. SEIU divisions may SEIU GOP Advisory Committee as well as encouraging morechoose to set those standards higher, delegates said. SEIU members to run for o ce and increasing the involvement SEIU’s state councils gained new powers to ensure that “ev- of SEIU retirees in political action. And the convention called
  9. 9. 2008 CONVENTION SEEKS ‘JUSTICE FOR ALL’ 201for increasing SEIU strength in the community through devel-oping annual plans and expanding training. e convention agenda had been shaped in part by a widerange of SEIU caucuses that provided forums for the vast andrich diversity of the union. e caucuses helped to identifyand develop leaders, served as a bridge with groups outside theunion, and broadened member participation. At times over the years, the caucuses challenged the unionto rethink its programs, policies, and practices. Among the ac-tive caucuses at the 2008 convention were the African AmericanCaucus, Asian Paci c Islander Caucus, First American Caucus,Lavender Caucus, Latino Caucus, People with Disabilities Cau-cus, Retiree Caucus, and Women’s Caucus. e convention delegates also re-elected SEIU PresidentAndy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger and chosesix executive vice presidents: Eliseo Medina, Tom Woodru ,Mary Kay Henry, Gerry Hudson, Annelle Grajeda,180 and DaveRegan. ey were joined by a diverse International Executive Dave Regan, who led SEIU District 1199 in West Virginia, Kentucky, andBoard of 65 additional union leaders, including nine rank-and- Ohio from 2000 to 2008, won election as an executive vice president at SEIU’s 2008 convention. le members. healthcare system,” Russo said. “It is public employees who are going to ght for money put into education. It is propertyA s the Justice for All program was debated on the conven- tion oor, Monica Russo from SEIU Healthcare Floridatook the oor to speak in favor of the proposals. service workers that are going to ght to make sure that global corporations are accountable.” “We are going to have to step up like never before to elect As the delegates ew home from Puerto Rico, they facedthe next President of the United States,” she said. “And that not only the challenges of expanding SEIU membership byis only where it begins, because President Barack Obama will 500,000, but also electing Barack Obama and a pro-workerneed us. He needs an army, a grassroots army of activist mem- Congress that would create the real possibility of healthcare,bers—healthcare workers, public employees, property services labor law, and immigration reform.janitors—an army of members in the streets. A daunting agenda loomed ahead—one that would start “Because Barack Obama is not going to win healthcare by with nuts-and-bolts political work at the grassroots—some-himself; it is healthcare workers who are going to transform the thing SEIU members have proved they do with great skill.