Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Where Andy Stern is taking the SEIU

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Earlier I blogged an article about Andy Stern, which focused on the good. Now here’s an article that shows the dark side:

I’m Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, one of four members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee’s Council of Presidents. I have been a direct care nurse for over thirty years, currently in the post-anesthesia unit.

Thank you to OpenLeft for sponsoring this debate between CNA/NNOC and SEIU. We’ve come to a turning point in the labor movement: a choice between a progressive, democratic, feminist social movement committed to single-payer healthcare reform, as represented by CNA/NNOC, or company unionism based on corporate partnerships, as represented by Andy Stern of SEIU International. Forward or back?

This debate is happening in a historical moment. Stern has just sent 200 staff members to California and paired them up with several hundred local staffers, with the goal of an unprecedented two-part takeover of CNA and United Healthcare Workers-West of SEIU, his harshest internal critics. Moreover, it comes in the aftermath of a humiliating display of thuggery by SEIU in Michigan, repeated episodes of CNA/NNOC nurse leaders being followed and harassed at their homes and nursing stations by SEIU staffers, and a fortunate victory in Ohio over an unprecedented, company-sponsored worker election.

First, a bit of background:

CNA’s current staff-nurse leadership assumed office 15 years ago, with 17,000 members. CNA/NNOC was formed three years ago as a national union and now counts over 80,000 members in every state and big city in the country, with bargaining units from Texas to Maine. We are the fastest-growing union in the country, and for the first time, America has a national nurses’ movement.

The creation of a national nurses’ movement matters for many reasons. Nursing has long been viewed as a traditionally feminine profession, and the lack of unionization in this industry has long hamstrung the feminist movement. In addition, RNs have never had a voice in the healthcare debates in this country- just look where that’s gotten us. Finally, from a labor perspective, when RNs are unionized, they can work closely with ancillary staff and spread unionization throughout the industry. We work at hundreds of hospitals with other unions from AFSCME to the United Steelworkers to United Healthcare Workers-West to, yes, SEIU itself.

CNA/NNOC has progressive values at its core because we nurses gave our organization the same charter as our professional obligation: patient advocacy. RNs have an ethical and legal duty to “advocate in the sole interest of [our] patients,” and we have charged our union with the same thing. There is no chance of this directive being lost, as our board is composed of thirty-five working direct care nurses elected by our members every two years. As patient advocates, we fight for single payer health care, patient care protections, and the right of every nurse to speak out. We believe that RNs cannot act exclusively in the interests of their patients if their union participates in a partnership with their corporate employers. We believe that RNs should choose and control their union.

By contrast, SEIU forms partnerships with employers based on the company’s business interests and political agenda. The result: less regulation of the healthcare industry, diminished representation of members, gag clauses on nurses and other workers, bonuses for denials of care, closed hospitals and sweetheart deals. To workers, it looks more like an outsourced HR department than a union. Like many others, we wish SEIU’s actions matched its progressive rhetoric, at least in terms of labor and healthcare issues… but it doesn’t.

Stern has not been shy about this focus on corporate partnerships. On Jan. 22, 2007 he told the Wall Street Journal, “We want to find a 21st century model that is less focused on individual grievances, more focused on industry needs.” In 2006, he told the McKinsey Quarterly, “Employers live in a competitive environment and have to meet certain shareholder expectations, and labor can play a role in helping to meet them.” In his own book, “A Country that Works,” Stern argued that “unions must be experts in…assisting employers in overcoming necessary legislative and political obstacles.”

With these words, Stern sets himself against RN professional practice and ethical obligations. RNs cannot be focused on industry needs, shareholder expectations, or assisting employers. We are singularly focused on patient care, and can never compromise that.

SEIU’s model does not work for RNs.

Andy Stern’s record at SEIU shows the devastating results of this philosophy. …

Continue reading. And at the link you’ll also find some VERY interesting comments to the story.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2008 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life

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One Response

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  1. Fellow SEIU Members,

    Tell SEIU International to Denounce the Violence at the Labor Notes Conference!
    Sign the Petition by Clicking Below:

    Posted by: SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today (SMART).

    SMART is a national rank-and-file movement for the democratic reform of SEIU composed of leaders from many Local Unions from every division of SEIU: public-sector, property services and healthcare.

    We Believe:

    SEIU must be democratic, bottom-up and rooted in the membership with strong member leaders, to win.

    We must have right to vote by Local on mergers or reorganizations, elect officers of new locals quickly, and expect that Locals will never be trusteed for political reasons.

    Members must play lead roles in organizing. Strong contracts are the best motivator for new members to join SEIU.

    We must re-unite and rebuild the labor movement, and we must build political power to demand real social and economic justice.


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