Statement by National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) Interim President Sal Rosselli on the likely resignation of SEIU President Andy Stern
If the reports are true, and Andy Stern steps down as the head of the SEIU, a sad chapter in the once proud union’s history will come to an end.
Stern’s legacy is that he took control of an organization built by more than a million hardworking janitors, healthcare workers, and public servants, and used their resources primarily to secure his own political power.
Instead of helping SEIU members fight for better jobs and better patient care, Stern gave himself the authority to cut secret deals with corporations and trade away members’ rights.
Instead of helping working people build their own organizations, he “restructured” existing unions, crushed democracy, and put his own loyalists in charge: appointees like Tyrone Freeman and Annelle Grajeda, who could always be trusted to vote with Stern, even if they couldn’t be trusted to keep their hands out of the till. Stern’s allies have been exposed for financial corruption and connected to the Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal.
Instead of uniting the labor movement’s strength, Stern tore apart the AFL-CIO and created the “Change to Win” federation, only to tear apart Change to Win four years later with an unprecedented raid on SEIU’s closest partner in the federation, Unite Here.
Last year, tens of thousands of SEIU healthcare workers in California realized that if they wanted to stand up for their patients and fight for their work to be valued, they would have to do it in an independent union outside SEIU. When Stern came to take control of their local union, they founded the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Stern’s multi-million-dollar fights against these healthcare workers and against Unite Here have diverted resources away from healthcare reform and employee free choice, weakening the former and scuttling the latter. These wars of choice have taken a toll on the union’s finances as well as on Stern’s credibility.
Wherever Stern parachutes himself next, he will leave a workers’ organization in disarray, with a crisis of leadership from top to bottom. His likely successors, Mary Kay Henry and Anna Burger, have been tarred by the same ethics scandals and failed policies that marred his tenure. Stern’s legacy is that SEIU has become a rogue union, undemocratic, unable to pay its bills, and unwilling to defend its members at the national level.
The challenge for SEIU is not simply to choose a successor, but to reverse years of bad policy, restore accountability, and steer away from the brink.
Sal Rosselli is the Interim President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a rapidly growing union representing healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and other facilities. Prior to helping form NUHW in early 2009, Rosselli served as president of the third largest SEIU affiliate and the International Union’s executive council.