I posted an item on Friday about what looks to be a power grab at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) by president Andy Stern and his allies. At the heart of the struggle is the creation of a new SEIU State Council in California. Sal Rosselli, a critic of Stern’s, was to serve as head of the State Council until 2009. But Rosselli, also the head of United Healthcare Workers West, will likely be removed in a controversial vote today that is being held for the leadership of the new Council, and one of Stern’s allies is almost sure to win.
The voters for the head of the new Council are a score of local union leaders in California, many of whom were appointed directly by Stern himself. The balloting was supposed to be held Friday during a telephone conference call, but there was no quorum. So now, according to an email I just received, Stern’s allies are trying to get rid of Rosselli through a vote by email. Keep in mind here that the State Council represents about 650,000 SEIU members, about 40 percent of the national total.
Meanwhile, Rosselli appears to be withdrawing as a candidate. Here’s part of an email he sent to Stern explaining why:
In order to retain the focus on healthcare reform, I am writing to notify you and our colleagues in California that I will not accept any nomination to serve as President of the SEIU California State Council. Although I am very proud of the State Council’s accomplishments over the course of my presidency and appreciate the opportunity to bring our fight for healthcare reform to the brink of victory, I do not want any contest for this office to serve as a point of contention among SEIU Locals in California or to hinder in any way our joint effort to win real healthcare reform now.
This letter also serves as our notice to you and our California colleagues that UHW will not participate in the voting process. The idea that organizations like SEIU Locals 6434 and 1877 will be able to fully participate while owing more than $1.5 million in back dues defies acceptable notions of fairness with regard to union democracy. Nor do the numbers attributed to each local coincide with recent reports from the State Council regarding full members and fee payers.
Similarly, your appointment to the State Council Executive Board of representatives from two “organizing” Locals that do not represent any members and three Locals that have not been affiliated with the State Council also is, in our opinion, a violation of basic tenets of union democracy.
And finally, that such a vote is slated to occur and conclude electronically on Monday, less than 24 hours before we are scheduled to meet face-to-face in San Diego on Tuesday, calls into question the integrity of the entire process. Consequently, we choose not to participate in such flawed proceedings.