• New SEIU President May Not Be Andy Stern's Pick
  • May 4, 2010 | Authors: Michael J. Lotito; Martin F. Payson
  • Law Firms: Jackson Lewis LLP - San Francisco Office ; Jackson Lewis LLP - White Plains Office
  • According to Politico, it appears that Andy Stern’s selected successor for SEIU President, Anna Burger, may lose to rival Mary Kay Henry. It is interesting that a union that often speaks about “democracy” and “voice” is engaged in quiet deals to “elect” its new leader based upon the “voice of membership.”

    Ironically, Mr. Stern, the great champion of Employee Free Choice, is not offering free choice to his membership by allowing them to vote for their next leader. Is he really so afraid of the secret ballot election? If so, perhaps the union should ask members to sign cards for one candidate or the other, followed by a “card check” to determine the winner?   Instead, SEIU members will have no voice at all in selecting their next president.

    We will have to wait for the decision of the union's executive board (we guess by secret ballot and not signed cards) to see who wins. Nonetheless, many of the points raised in Ms. Burger’s letter to the Executive Board (http://www.politico.com/static/PPM136&under;100421&under;anna&under;burger.html) merit discussion.

    1. Ms. Burger says the SEIU is “beacon of hope” for workers “...around the world.” Unions are going global to match their target employers. 

    2. Her admission of issues with HERE and NUHW is a prelude to settlements. And watch for the AFL-CIO and CTW to re-unite. Indeed, Ms. Henry may even accelerate the process.

    3. “We have the best President of our generation” for “the next 7 years” is a call for even more political activity by the SEIU. The union’s two million members need to keep their wallets open for ongoing political contributions. We wonder if Ms. Henry disagrees.

    4. Ms. Burger’s urging to “...use health care reforms...” for SEIU growth is a clear admission that the union wanted an expansion of health care to grow its membership. The closer we get to a national health market, the closer we get to the SEIU being the controlling national union impacting all Americans each day. Ms. Henry will be even more aggressive with organizing as the union needs money desperately.

    5. Ms. Burger wants “to push...the labor-friendly majority on the NLRB” to make it “easier to organize.” No surprise. This is what we said would happen. The stars are in alignment.

    6. Her reference to the rights of “immigrants” means immigration reform is alive and well and the SEIU wants those 12 million people as members.

    7. Ms. Burger wants a larger slice of the public sector workers. Since the SEIU has negotiated contracts which are literally bankrupting the public sector, this is a frightening thought. The SEIU’s political skill to support or oppose politicians who support or oppose the union is very effective.

    The speculation that Ms. Burger believes more in the “political role” of the union than Ms. Henry is really only a matter of degree. Similarly, as far as organizing is concerned, in light of its financial condition, the union must get more members no matter who leads it.