Factional fighting inside the SEIU culminated this year when the Washington D.C.-based international union, led by Andy Stern, removed the leadership of its 140,000-member California healthcare division named United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) led by Sal Rosselli. Internal tension over centralized authority and jurisdiction had existed for a few years. Throughout 2008, Stern claimed UHW was improperly allocating dues to sow an insurgency against SEIU. Rosselli alleged SEIU was neutering criticism and ignoring member’s wishes. The dispute came to a head in January of this year when the international removed the leaders of UHW, which in union parlance is “trusteeship”.
Trusteeship is not something new and in most cases puts an end to the dispute, rightly or wrongly. In the case of Stern and Rosselli, it opened a new chapter in the fighting. The day after UHW was put into trusteeship, Rosselli and his core of fired UHW leaders created a rival union called the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Some saw this as a positive development, others saw it as a looming disaster and some considered it insignificant all together. Either way, NUHW set their targets on SEIU-UHW and began filing for decertification elections, votes whereby union members would decide to join either SEIU-UHW, NUHW or no union. Both sides accuse the other of union busting, and both sides are, basically, right. Each seeks the other’s destruction.
Whatever one thinks, the end results are the same. Carefully crafted plans to expand and better workers’ conditions have been replaced by squabbling, all while the economic recession saps government services that oftentimes employ and serve union members and their families.
Mouse over highlighted counties to see the latest in labor’s open war in California. There has been action in more than 38 counties, but the highlighted counties reflect where there has more recent movement. Email suggestions or errors to email@example.com