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United Healthcare West rejects martial law

SEIU's Stern 'Trustees' California Local
Commentary by Joe Iosbaker |
January 28, 2009
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The trade union bureaucrats in SEIU (Service Employees International Union) are moving to crush the California local that refused to sell out.

On Jan. 27, the conflicts in SEIU came to a boil, with the rank-and-file members and the officers of United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) standing against the officials in Washington, D.C. The SEIU international moved to take power from fighting leadership of UHW President Sal Roselli and the executive board that wouldn’t knuckle under - installing stooges who would do what International says to do.

The UHW said they refused to accept the trusteeship. “The only people who are happy about all of this are the employers who want to negotiate back-room deals with [the international],” said John Borsos, Vice President of UHW in press accounts.

Earlier in January, the international executive board had voted to take away 65,000 of the 150,000 members of the large west coast local. Those being ordered to join a new local are workers involved in long-term care of the elderly and the disabled.

However, 10 out of 56 international e-board members stood against President Andy Stern in a never before seen split vote, with seven voting no outright and three abstaining.

This trusteeship is an attack on democracy and on the best militant tradition of the workers’ movement in the U.S. Members in SEIU want the right to choose which local they belong to. Tens of thousands of UHW members have spoken out, rallied and organized against Stern’s breaking up their local.

Driving the movement for democratic rights is class struggle. The D.C.-based leadership of SEIU has a program of deal making with employers. In recent years, SEIU has accepted contracts with minimal advances in exchange for the right to organize new shops. Members can see when union leaders are more interested in getting dues from new members than improving the lives of working people. In contrast, the California UHW is a local union with a history of organizing its members to fight. The rank and file of UHW actively supports their local union's militant leadership because they make more gains through fighting management than by collaborating.

President Andy Stern is behind these attacks on UHW and as a dues-paying member with 20 years in the SEIU, I condemn his actions and applaud the spirit of the UHW.

One day after the trusteeship was imposed, leaders of the UHW stated they were forming a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers. Furthermore, the plan of the workers in UHW is to decertify SEIU. Tens of thousands of workers in nursing homes and hospitals in California are poised to break from the class collaborationism of Stern and company. This is a very exciting development for the trade union movement.

The workers in SEIU in California are acting like the workers at the Republic Windows and Doors Factory here in Chicago. The Republic Workers sit down was a remarkable advance in the fight against the bosses; similarly, the fight being waged by the UHW represents a tremendous step forward in the struggle to transform the unions into class struggle organizations.

Joe Iosbaker is a clerical worker at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He is chief steward and a member of the executive board of Local 73 SEIU.

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