Under Stern’s direction, as the union has grown to one of the biggest unions in the country the locals are directed by the larger state and even national offices as opposed to at the local level. In other words, the locals no longer have the power to enter into negotiations with their employers at the local level.
This top down style is being opposed by many who claim that the union drifted away from its membership. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, the secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis local 2000, Tony Condra, is not too happy with Stern’s leadership.
“One thing I think the top leadership forgot is the members are the CEOs, not us,” says Tony Condra, secretary-treasurer of Local 2000 in St. Louis. “That’s how we look at it in Missouri — the members are the title-holders of the whole structure.”Condra isn’t the only one upset at Stern’s ploicies.
Condra, of University City, is helping lead an effort to reverse some actions of the union’s Washington-based leadership. He says the failure to listen to workers’ voices prompted some local members to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
Paula Jones, a member of Local 2000 who works at a nursing home in Florissant, says that contracts negotiated between senior union officials and management at local nursing homes have compromised workers’ ability to advocate for resources and supplies for their patients.Of course, Stern has the wild growth he’s helped realize for the union. So, will his success win over the membership, or will his heavy handed leadership sink him?
“Workers had lost their voice” because of deals Stern supporters made several years ago with management “behind our back without discussing it with union members,” says Jones, a certified medical technician.
The main question the union is dealing with is this: is a union best run by a centralized leadership out of Washington or should union locals have as much power to deal with their individual needs as possible?
In any case, there is no doubt that union chief Stern is leading the effort to take power away from the local unions and instilling that power in the national offices. This is most certainly an anti-democratic policy and it is not surprising that the locals resent losing so much power.
Now, I have a question of my own. What makes Andy Stern any different than the so-called “fat cats” in the corporations that he opposes? Unions have made hay on the fact that corporate heads are evil for running their businesses with an iron fist, from the top down. Unions always cavil against businesses as un-democratic. Yet, here is SEIU president Andy Stern actually putting in place policies that would invest all power in the top office of the union, stripping the members of all power. How is Stern any different from the model of power hungry corporate head that unions use as a boogeyman?
Your guess is as good as mine, but it does seem that many of the SEIU membership agrees with me there!