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SEIU convention ends, fight for reform goes on

by Joe Iosbaker |
June 15, 2008
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The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) convention ended on June 4. Even in its last hours, the reform movement showed it will continue to challenge the undemocratic methods of President Andy Stern. A slate of 13 rank-and-file members stepped forward to run for International Executive Board seats. This so surprised the officers that they had to scramble to print ballots. The vote counting went well into the evening, forcing their ‘victory party’ to start before the results were announced.

The officers withstood this challenge from the reform movement, pushing through their program and plans. However, the reform movement gained some important ground as well. Delegates representing about 10% of the membership challenged the officials. SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today (SMART) was formed, and promises to continue the fight for ‘one member, one vote,’ on contracts, contract proposals, negotiating committees and national leadership. And the reform movement clearly won the contest of public opinion. In this past six months, Andy Stern has gone from the symbol of change in the labor movement,to becoming the chief representative of business unionism.

The convention did authorize more centralization of money and decision making in the hands of the top officers. We know where SEIU will go next. We’ve seen the future, in Stern’s book, his appeals for corporate partners and his statements that the era of class struggle has passed. As the economic crisis unfolds, working people will need to struggle for wages and job security. The SEIU leadership will be tested in the class struggle. If they fail, a cry for new direction will grow among the members. If the officers in Washington don’t alter course, then the movement for reform will only grow.