5/12/08

Stern issues blanket threat to U.S. politicians

Union to spend more than $150 million, mobilize tens of thousands during and AFTER the election

Members and leaders of the nation's strongest and fastest growing union say they will hold elected leaders strictly accountable if they say one thing before an election and then do something else.

As part of the union's proposed "Justice for All" plan, SEIU members will continue the 2008 political campaign past the election and through the first 100 days of a new administration in order to win affordable healthcare and rebuild the middle class by restoring workers' freedom to join unions. What's more, the union is willing to spend $10 million to oppose elected leaders who turn their backs on these and other key issues for working people.

"This is our chance, our time to change America, and we are no longer willing to put up with the doubletalk and political hedging we've too often heard in the past," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "SEIU members expect that elected leaders will live up to their promises, and if they don't, we will work to elect someone else."

The "Justice for All" plan has been unanimously adopted by the SEIU International Executive Board, which includes 57 elected leaders from throughout the union representing 87 percent of the union's membership. It will be debated by members at SEIU's convention in early June.

"We have learned the hard way that winning in November can be a hollow victory if we don't keep elected officials' feet to the fire after the election," said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. "So SEIU members are not stopping on November 4. We will keep campaigning and keep fighting to win healthcare and restore economic balance in America between those who work for a living and those with wealth. And we will do it with the same resources, passion, and effort we are using to support and help elect pro-worker candidates in the election."

In February SEIU members, along with several other organizations, provided a dramatic preview of the new "no nonsense" political accountability program, defeating long-time Democratic incumbent Al Wynn in Maryland and helping elect Donna Edwards. In 2007, SEIU members in Chicago sponsored a group of pro-worker candidates who ousted seven incumbent Chicago aldermen allied with the Chicago Mayor Richard Daley political machine.

The tough approach to political accountability is just one part of the "Justice for All" plan, an unprecedented blueprint to transform the union in order to align the members, staff, and resources to win affordable healthcare and rebuild the middle class by restoring workers' freedom to join unions.

Under the plan, SEIU leaders are pledging to spend more than $150 million and put tens of thousands of members in motion to achieve those goals by the end of the first 100 days of a new administration.

SEIU leaders also pledged to continue the union's unprecedented growth by creating a national plan to unite more than 500,000 new members in the union by 2012. That would make SEIU the largest union in American history that is not exclusively public sector, and ensure that it has the strength to continue winning high standards of pay and benefits for its members and all working people.

In addition, SEIU leaders also voted to continue working with unions around the world to build a global workers' movement for justice.

The "Justice for All" plan calls for dramatic changes in SEIU...

-- In addition to the $75 million SEIU has committed to the upcoming election, the union will create an initial $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises. It calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable. At least 50 percent of the union's organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort.

"Winning healthcare and restoring the American Dream can't be done by a handful of people in each local union or in Washington, DC. It will take an army of working people fanned out across America, and that's what we're going to build," Burger said.

-- A commitment to jumpstart a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union's membership).

-- SEIU is the first U.S. union to pioneer the use of round-the-clock "member resource centers" that use 21st century phone and computer technology to provide trained, immediate expert response and assistance to members in their own language, 24/7, and give them information about how to get involved in campaigns on worker issues.

The local unions that have experimented with these centers in Southern California, Chicago, New York, and Oregon have found that the approach is not only more effective for individual members but also frees staff and workplace stewards to involve a majority of members in campaigns on key issues such as:

-- fixing the broken healthcare system;

-- addressing the growing wealth gap;

-- providing a path to citizenship for hard-working, taxpaying immigrants;

-- ensuring quality services in local communities with fair, reliable funding; and

-- ending the war in Iraq and then providing necessary services for returning veterans.

Under the "Justice for All" plan local leaders will ask the convention delegates to adopt, at least a million SEIU members will have access to such centers by 2012.

Because of unprecedented innovations adopted in the past 12 years, SEIU has been the fastest growing union in North America, representing a million more workers today than in 1996, at a time when most other unions are suffering rapid declines. The growth has given workers the strength to win healthcare coverage and wages that can support families.

"Workers can't win today until we move beyond a 20th century approach that was based on an industrial economy that simply is not effective today," said SEIU Local 1199P President Thomas V. DeBruin. "SEIU recognizes that and is using the technology and systems of the 21st century to build a modern movement."

(sev.prnewswire.com)

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