Hundreds of Service Employee International Union (SEIU) staff and members stormed a progressive union
gathering in Dearborn, Michigan this Saturday -- dispensing injuries,
bruises and split heads to conference-goers at a Labor Notes magazine
strategy session. Today AFL-CIO President John Sweeney spoke out against the violence and called upon SEIU president Andy Stern to repudiate it too.
Stern's at the center of the controversy (in part recently covered by The New Republic and by the SF Weekly) because he seeks to crush resistance to his ideas in all corners of the labor movement. He has led SEIU into dangerous agreements with nursing home owners that seek to keep elder abuse quiet and prevent liablity for it. He's pioneered
similar "partnerships" with Kaiser to keep caregivers from speaking out
about problems inside the HMO. His brand of unionism is geared toward
building membership numbers by giving employers what they want: sheep
who listen to, not agitate against, the HMO bosses, nursing home owners
and other corporate shepherds.
Stern's corporate unionism is tearing his union,SEIU, apart as West Coast dissent United Health Care Workers leader Sal Roselli, targeted by Stern for standing up to Arnold Schwarzenegger's bogus mandatory health insurance purchase plan,
now leads a counter-revolution to democratize SEIU. The showdown
in Puerto Rico in June will be a true David vs. Goliath story.
Why the violence in Dearborn? California Nurses Association leader
Rose Ann DeMoro, a close ally and dear friend of Consumer Watchog, was
slated to speak at the Labor Notes conference. She's taken on Stern on
Sixty Minutes and recently foiled a sweetheart deal between SEIU and an
Ohio hospital. (Her aggressive brand of unionism recently led to the
first unionization of a private hospital in Texas.) So the purple
shirted SEIUers marched on about 1,000 progressive unionists even
though they knew, according to Labor Notes leader Chris Kutalik, that
DeMoro had cancelled the speech. These photos tell the story. Here's Labor Notes written account:
SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION ATTACKS LABOR GATHERING
CONFERENCE-GOERS ASSAULTED Dearborn, MI—The Service Employees
International Union turned their dispute with the California Nurses
Association violent by attacking a labor conference April 12, injuring
several and sending an American Axle striker to the hospital.
A recently retired member of United Auto Workers Local 235, Dianne
Feeley, suffered a head wound after being knocked to the ground by SEIU
International staff and local members. Other conference-goers—members
of the Teamsters, UAW, UNITE HERE, International Longshoremen’s
Association, and SEIU itself—were punched, kicked, shoved, and pushed
to the floor.
Dearborn police responded and evicted the three bus loads of SEIU
International staff and members of local and regional health care
No arrests were made.
The assault took place at the Labor Notes conference, a biennial
gathering of 1,100 union members and leaders who met to discuss
strategies to rebuild the labor movement.
David Cohen, an international representative of the United Electrical
Workers, asked protestors why they came. He said one responded, “they
told us just to get on the bus.”
The protestors included several members with young children, who had to
be ushered away when SEIU tried to force their way into the conference
banquet hall. Protesters were targeting Rose Ann DeMoro, executive
director of the AFL-CIO-affiliated CNA. DeMoro was scheduled to speak
but declined to appear after threats were made against her union’s
Despite being welcomed to the conference earlier in the day—and given
space to debate supporters of the CNA and the National Nurses
Organizing Committee about neutrality organizing agreements—SEIU
international and regional staff shouted down speakers at workshops and
panels throughout the event.
“Labor Notes has always been a space for open debate, but when a union
decides to engage in violence against their brothers and sisters, we
draw a line,” said Mark Brenner, director of Labor Notes. “Violence
within the labor movement is unacceptable and we call on the national
leadership of SEIU, including President Andy Stern, to repudiate it.”
The California Nurses also report that
board members have been harrassed at their homes by SEIU members sent
to California to disrupt the nurses association operations.
It's time for Andy Stern to take a stern stand against these
heavy handed tactics. Stern needs a little more collaboration with his
brothers and sisters in the labor movement across America and little
less coordination with his partners in corporate Amerrica.