9/25/08

SEIU members protest fascistic Andy Stern

More SEIU stories: here • Andy Stern stories: here

Stern regime loots, pillages big state affiliate

For weeks, UHW members have been hearing the buzz. From their "war room," we've heard, SEIU International staff are preparing to force a bogus trusteeship and phony vote, take control of our union away from us, and hand UHW over to a crony of International President Andy Stern. On Wednesday, more than seventy UHW members visited that "war room" to tell SEIU that this is our union, and that we are going to fight for what is ours.

We crowded into SEIU's regional office on the seventh floor of an Oakland office building. You would have thought we were invading a foreign country rather than walking into the office of our own International union. That we are engaged in a war for the control of the direction of our union is becoming increasingly apparent.

We demanded to see someone who could give us a straight answer. The person we got was
International staffer David Kiefer. As flash bulbs flashed and our cameras rolled, he asked what he could do for us. We said we wanted to know why the SEIU International is trying to take over our local union. Kiefer talked about protecting SEIU's financial strength by "following procedure" and investigating the conduct of UHW's leadership. That prompted Mell Garcia, a 31-year UHW member, to tell Kiefer, "stop the smear campaign, stop the persecution, stop trying to take our union away from us."

"Back off," she said, "because a purple storm is coming!"

Roy Chaffee, a longtime UHW member leader, asked Kiefer point-blank whether Andy Stern had designated him to lead the trusteeship of UHW, as we had heard. Kiefer denied it, claiming that he was in Oakland to "focus on organizing long-term care workers." But even as he denied that he was hand-picked to take over our local, he defended the International's maneuver, insisting that the upcoming trusteeship hearing will be "fair." We told him we are putting the International on notice that we will not go away. Chants of "Whose union is this? OUR union!" erupted, reverberating through the office halls for several minutes.

­When the chants died down, JuanAntonio Molina, a San Francisco homecare worker, came forth with an impassioned plea. "This is our union. We have a voice. Listen to UHW's members, you can't just move us around like pieces of furniture." Kiefer remained impassive, arms crossed, and replied, "I appreciate your input, and it will be put to a vote." Amidst loud booing, a member demanded, "how can an election be 'fair' if both options lead to the same result – the SEIU International taking over our union and taking away the members' control?" That's because the International has proposed a sham "vote" how to reorganize long-term care workers in California, with just two options: one is to dismantle UHW by taking away 65,000 members, and another is to reoganize UHW entirely out of existence.

With that, member Nancy Stengel put Kiefer on notice again that we won't sit by quietly and let our union be taken away.­With our chants echoing through the office building, we walked out, single-file, to the parking lot, where we started to plan the next phase of what looks like it will be a long war to keep this union democratic, to keep it member-run – to keep UHW ours.

- Gary Allen

(seiuvoice.org)

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