An old UU friend sent out this letter today, reposted with permission.
Some of you know that in the past few weeks, the Union I worked for was taken over by our international union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
For over two years, UHW has been at odds with SEIU. The fundamental issues are member democracy, workers in UHW wanting to make sure they had a voice in their contracts and their unions, while Andy Stern and SEIU have increasingly centralized control taking it out of the hands of workers. But also the issue is about what kind of union do we want to work to build, one that fights the boss, or one that collaborates with the boss. The fight started when UHW led by Sal Rosselli began to criticize sweatheart deals SEIU had made with nursing home and hospital bosses to gain more union members—at the expense of those worker’s standards and working conditions. UHW then tried for over a year to fight for reforms within SEIU. After this exhausting process, most of us came to the conclusion that the institution of SEIU is to undemocratic, to top down, to ever win real reform in.
This fight led to Andy Stern to make the undemocratic and purely political move of trusteeing UHW. A trusteeship means that all of the officers are fired and SEIU installs new leadership that will do as they wish. The local’s constitution and bylaws are suspended and the local union is in complete international control. UHW members repeatedly warned Andy Stern and SEIU that they would not stand for a trusteeship. They warned SEIU that they would do everything within their power to fight back and keep their local whole and in their hands.
You can learn more about this all at www.seiuvoice.org.
SEIU trusteed UHW on Tuesday January 27th. UHW workers would not stand for it. Within 5 days, 10,000 workers at 62 facilities petitioned the NLRB to decertify SEIU and certify the newly formed National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) since then, another 20,000 or so workers have joined them, and workers throughout the rest of UHW are working to do the same. NUHW is a member led, militant, and leftist union that hopes to lead the labor movement to reform itself, not by working with the boss and accepting concessions, but by organizing and fighting back.
You can learn more about NUHW at www.nuhw.org.
I loved working for UHW and I loved working with the UHW members. I knew I could not continue to work for SEIU and assist them with the trusteeship.
About 120 former UHW staff resigned or were fired and currently volunteering their time to make NUHW a reality. I resigned shortly after the trusteeship to do this. All of us are struggling and have made huge financial sacrifices because we believe in this movement. Of course we are taking on the biggest union in the country with far less resources, but our members remain united and strong.
You can help to sustain us and make this movement a reality. You can make a donation to the Fund for Union Democracy at www.fundforuniondemocracy.org. Or you can make a donation directly to me to allow me to continue to work full time to build this movement. You can send checks directly to me at 134 St. Charles Ave., San Francisco, CA 94132. Any amount will make a difference. Nothing is too small to donate.