Day 1 - Time to Vote! (Long Post)

After the division reports, International Executive Vice President Tom Woodruff closed the show, emphasizing a couple of the key pieces of the “Justice for All” program. These include:

  • Ensuring all locals follow through on constitutional commitment to spend 20 percent of their budgets on organizing.
  • Recommendations from the International Executive Board (IEB) that when bargaining with designated national employers and industry sectors, designated by the divisions, that we speak with one voice and unite our strength.

The first one is important because this year at convention the IEB is proposing that any local failing to meet the 20 percent target be required to transfer any organizing money “left on the table” up to the International. The money will be used to finance division organizing programs. This is not peanuts, either. Internally the International estimates it spent $530 million on organizing through the local 20 percent funds between 1997 and 2006. But they estimate another $97 million was “left on the table” and went unspent over the same period.

The International also recommended as part of Justice for All that the 20 percent funds be “blended” with the divisions' dedicated unity fund. It was not clear from the recommendations whether this money “left on the table” was the only way the money was going to be “blended” or whether there were other ways the local organizing budget was going to be redirected to fund division plans.

Getting down to brass tacks, the second point is about establishing national bargaining with targeted employers, “speaking with one voice” in SEIU-lingo. This is controversial because the proposal is to let the division coordinate this national bargaining with targeted employers. The devil is in the details, and how that division-led coordination will happen. Critics argue that the International’s plan could very well exclude rank and filers from participating in bargaining.

This is what happened to United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) in 2007, when their elected rank-and-file bargaining committee at the Tenet healthcare chain was left cooling their heels while staff from the International sat down at the table with their employer. (you can read about that here) The same thing happened in the California Nursing Home Alliance, where not only were rank-and-file members excluded from negotiations with the Alliance, UHW leaders at all levels were barred from participating in the negotiations (read more about the California nursing home alliance from the July 2007 issue of Labor Notes).

ROUND ONE: GUARANTEE RANK-AND-FILE MEMBERS AT THE TABLE OR NOT?

In one of the many not-so-subtle ironies of the day, who should take the stage but Dave Regan, who coordinated the negotiations with the California Nursing Home Alliance that iced out UHW members and elected leaders. Regan has also been the International’s go-to attack dog when it comes to UHW’s President Sal Rosselli, and as the fates would have it is the co-chair of the program committee together with Damita Davis-Howard from Local 1021 (who had her own share of trouble in the run up to this convention).

Among other things, their committee is recommending the adoption of a resolution that formally sanctions the International’s recent practice with Tenet and the California Nursing Home Alliance, where the International appointed the individual(s) who bargain with the company. Specifically, the resolution’s Appendix B reads:

“Upon the recommendation of the division leadership board, the International president acts and utilizes his/her authority under the SEIU Constitution to authorize national bargaining and appoint a national barraging chair and team for the strategic employer(s). The chair is responsible for implementing the strategic plan of the division and is the chief spokesperson. The makeup of the other team members will depend on the category of strategic employer relations designated by the division leadership board.

Regan reported that the committee had a “full and vigorous debate,” hearing seven hours of debate and testimony on Sunday (and an additional two hours of discussion in closed session) which he called “a hallmark of this union.”

Davis-Howard went to great pains to stress that these proposals for nationally coordinated bargaining were democratic. “Our members are the heart and soul of this union. They are the voice of this union,” she said. “In all circumstances there will be representatives from affected local unions on the national bargaining team. These local representatives will be accountable to their members because it is the members that select the local representatives in the first place. And if any of you have served on the bargaining team, you know your members will hold you accountable for what goes on at the bargaining table.”

Davis-Howard’s choice of words was interesting—saying selected instead of elected—because she wasn’t elected to her current position, but appointed by SEIU President Andy Stern to head the newly merged Local 1021 despite no small amount of rumbling from the membership.

The floor debate started and the first five speakers each lauded the resolution. The chair of the North Carolina public employees association SEANC, for example, claimed they symbolized the workers SEIU has chosen not to leave behind with this plan. Pearl Granat, from 1199 New York, emphasized that the division plans were democratic, comparing them to an organizing committee where everyone brings their ideas and talents, and everyone has a voice (with weighted voting I wondered?).

Stern then asked for someone with a different point of view and Maya Morris, a UHW vice president and leader of the rank-and-file reform group SMART (SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today) took the mike. Morris' comments went right to the heart of the matter, introducing an amendment to guarantee that elected rank-and-file members participate at every level of contract negotiations:

I support wholeheartedly the principles of winning justice for working people everywhere. I support growing our union through nationally coordinated campaigns and strategies. And I believe the best way to do this is by building a strong member-driven union, rooted in the principles of democracy and worker self-determination. Unfortunately these proposals do not guarantee democratic decision-making. They do not guarantee the right of rank-and-file members to participate at every level of contract negotiations. In fact rank-and-file members are excluded at the highest level of contract negotiations and replaced with boards of appointed leaders and staff, mostly from Washington, D.C., rather than from local unions.

The message being sent is that rank-and-file members aren’t trusted to make the right decision on behalf of all workers. Yet rank-and-file members should trust these appointed boards to make the right decisions on behalf of us, without any system of accountability to the members? Ironically, these proposals turn democracy and worker empowerment on its head.

Maya's comments were the opening salvo in what is sure to be a long and uncomfortable trek through the convention for the dissidents here in San Juan.

It also was a green light for the International to pull out the big guns, and that is exactly what they did. First to speak on the amendment was Kathy McCormick from 1199 West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, director of their Long Term Care Division. This protection was unnecessary, she said, since they elect their local leaders. (Somebody needs to tell her that is not true for a sizable chunk of the SEIU members in California - in Locals 721, 221, 1021, 521).

Suzanne Wall speaking at the 1991 Labor Notes conference. Her best line: "If you're not having fun you're not organizing." The Mickey Mouse shirt shows Mickey giving someone the finger.
Then Suzanne Wall, secretary treasurer of Local 775, spoke, reminding delegates that members always would get to vote on their contracts (not really the point but good to know) and she also gave a shout-out to Susie Young, a rank-and-file member of the Addus national bargaining committee from her local. (A subtle way to point out that you're already doing exactly what they want, so need to write it into the resolution, I wondered?)

But then Tony Aidukas, a rank-and-file board member of UHW, spoke in favor of the amendment, pointing out that when his rank-and-file bargaining team was kept out of talks at Tenet the International staff signed off on a tentative agreement to subcontract 12 percent of their workers. Those kind of specifics sort of trump Wall's Addus reference.

Then it was back to the big guns, as Leslie Frane, president of Local 503 spoke, followed by Regan. Frane make the savviest rhetorical move of the day, arguing that because the national bargaining council is supposed to have one leader and one member, and because the bargaining council elects the bargaining team, then everything is safe.

The only problem is that a) the resolution doesn't say anything about the member being a rank and filer (remember, staff can be and usually are members); b) the members in question are "elected/selected" -- not quite the same as a what UHW was pushing for. Just ask any public sector delegate from California in a local where their president and e-board was chosen for them following reorganization.

Regan spoke next, and aside from trumpeting how they have "gone the extra mile" to ensure member participation, he couldn't resist taking a swipe at UHW. "I also think it has to be noted that what we are putting forward in the resolution," he said, "does far more to protect the rights of inclusivity and participation than do the constitution and bylaws of the local union that is proposing the amendment on the floor."

(Regan didn't say anything about 1199 WOK's bylaws and how they stack up in all this, but since I don't think he ever spent a day in his life as a working member of the local that has to tell you something.)

What was really creepy about watching Regan speak was that Andy Stern was hovering right behind him the whole time, so close it almost looked like he was whispering in Dave's ear. What a pair those two made up on the podium!

Al Bacon, executive vice president from 1199 WOK, followed Regan supporting the original motion. Then there was a little pro-reform interlude. Keenan Sheedy from Local 721 read an amendment he hoped to introduce, designed to ensure that local democratic practices and structures are respected in national bargaining. Then Jonathan Meade from Local 1021 spoke in favor of the amendment, noting, "Elections are fine, but they are not the only hallmark of democracy. The other very, very important part of democracy is member participation -- the life of the union."

Then just like that time ran out. The amendment was voted on and failed by a wide margin. (UHW has about 8 percent of the delegates and with different pockets of support about 10 percent of the delegates supported their various initiatives). The main motion passed easily.

INTERNATIONAL GAINS MORE POWER OVER NATIONAL NEGOTIATIONS, LOCAL ORGANIZING BUDGETS

The laws committee, co-chaired by Anelle Grajeda (the Stern-appointed head of Local 721) and Tom Balanoff, president of Local 1, gave their partial report next. Their committee handled all the constitutional amendments that were proposed at this convention, and the first two to come to the convention floor were amendments 308 and 316.

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Amendment 308 broadens the powers of the International president to negotiate national agreements, particularly with strategic employers (identified by divisions). Amendment 316 modifies the system of accountability for spending the 20 percent organizing fund each local is already required to maintain.

In addition to putting the money in a designated, separate account (easier to get your hands on if you're the International?) it provides for a review by the secretary-treasurer if the division believes the local is not complying with the 20 percent mandate. Although Grajeda said this doesn't change anything, based on my read that seems a little misleading. Now, rather than having a hearing and hearing officer appointed to review the situation, the secretary-treasurer has the discretion and can impound the local's organizing funds if they determine the local is falling short on their 20 percent commitments.

In this round of debates, UHW and the other reformers were a much more solid presence at the microphones. At one point only two people had spoken in favor of the proposals, and five or six had spoken against them.

Two comments from the second round of debate really stood out. The first came from Arturo Diaz, a member from Local 721 and activist in SMART. He said:

My experience is that when it comes to higher executive positions in the International. If you are called upon, if you are selected, if you drink the Kool-Aid, you can get there. But people that like to think for themselves, that are trying to have the respect of their fellow members, and are trying to organize at the local level, are not being allowed to forward their ideas, they are not being respected by the International, and I just think this is another consolidation of power that would result at the local level in less flexibility for us as thinking members.

Since I've seen more than one cartoon about SEIU playing on that Jonestown theme I had to laugh.

But I also could really relate to something Jorge Rodriguez said when he spoke from the floor. He is a vice president in UHW, and he actually served as a committee member on the laws committee. Referring to the International's tightly run ship, he said,

This is my fifth SEIU convention. I’ve seen first hand how tightly controlled our conventions can be. I’ve seen first hand how there are people assigned, and security everywhere, and walkie-talkies in people's ear, and people standing close to you, in constant communication. It’s a very controlled atmosphere. I understand that. And I’ve seen first hand too, where our leadership get very nervous if somebody gets off script or something is not under full control.

Rodriguez's comment really struck a chord with me because as he was speaking I had one of the communications staff with the International, Carter Wright, sitting to my left. Carter (who is a very nice and thoughtful guy) was a regular presence wherever I found myself on the first day of the convention. I first noticed it when we were talking with UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor, who, trust me, doesn't need a handler with us reporters.

I felt paranoid, like Carter was writing down the questions I was asking, which weren't that pointed, I might add.

In any event, when Jorge made his comment, I turned to Carter and said "Is he talking about you?" It got even weirder as the time went on because pretty soon Michelle Ringuette (also with the International's communications staff) sat down on the other side of me. It was kind of like being caught in a very friendly version of the Malachi crunch (with Tina Fey on one side and Peter Krause on the other). Why didn't I get someone to take our picture?

I have to admit, I felt a little sorry for the communications staff at times today. They got really twitchy and started running around in a frenzy as soon as the reformers made their move on the convention floor. They didn't really seem to calm down for the rest of the afternoon, even after the dissidents lost the vote on the amendments by a wide margin. Actual discussion and debate, where the outcome is not predetermined and you're not sure where it might go, seems to be the kind of thing that brings on the vapors.

After the second round of voting, the delegates went on to consider two more amendments. The biggie expanded the number of executive vice president slots from four to six, and the number of vice presidents from 21 to 25. The union is growing after all, so someone has to manage this behemoth. After two speakers in favor of the amendments, somebody called the question and the first day was over.

IS THIS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE?

I left today's convention feeling really down. I was deeply disturbed by the ease with which the union seemed to be voting on such big questions with so little real discussion and debate.

At one point Woodruff got up to speak, saying:

I think we have an honest disagreement about some conflicting proposals. I come from a local union that had a very democratic structure--150 people on executive board, people on committees. We had disagreements, we had debates, and then we decided. And that’s what’s happening here. People are being listened to. But there are some proposals where you are not able to convince the majority of delegates to be with you. That is what democracy is all about, hearing the minority but then voting and put into effect the will of the majority.

Listening to Woodruff reminded me of a recent blog post by Herman Benson at the Association for Union Democracy. Benson wrote "Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union and labor's latest celebrity, seems to be resurrecting a neglected ideology: the concept of a militarized "democratic" centralism." You definitely get that sense, with all the talk of holding individual leaders and their locals accountable to the national plans.

Democratic centralism is not a organizing philosophy I subscribe to, but it seems to animate Stern, who's following in the tradition of leaders who skip over the "democratic" part and head straight for the centralization of power and resources.

Organizing millions doesn't require this sort of lock-step control. Just look at the 1930s, where organizing efforts were virtual "schools of democracy" (and sometimes anarchy). The upsurge may have been "too democratic" for top union officials, but definitely not for the people who were risking everything to actually forge the modern labor movement.

But even putting aside ideals, just in a very practical sense, how could this stage-managed, tightly scripted union convention really measure as democratic? Delegates got the text of the resolutions and amendments a week or two before the convention. In most cases there was no way to discuss the proposals with other members of the local, or even between the delegates themselves, before they arrived in Puerto Rico.

A friend told me that when Change to Win's Chair Anna Burger came to Local 73 in Chicago to talk about the convention, she didn't discuss the specifics of their Justice for All program, their proposals to centralize more decision-making at the International level, or even their high-profile dispute with UHW.
She talked about the weather, and what to wear to the beach.

On the convention floor itself, each block of proposals was debated for 40 minutes, and the one effort this afternoon to extend time was decisively voted down.

It is also clear that many people were not versed in the finer points of each motion. How could they be with other 100 pages of resolutions to study in just a week?

Collette Forbes, an 1199 member from New York, got up and said as much. "I’m not going according to the paper that’s being distributed here," she said, "but based on the fact that I’ve been a rank-and-file member for the past 19 years. I’ve seen real democracy taking place in this union."

Her statement captures both the highs and lows of SEIU. It reflects the incredible degree of trust and confidence many members have in their leaders and in SEIU itself. That sort of trust is essential for any large organization to actually function. (Imagine writing contract language that every member in the local had to sign off on. Then imagine doing it in a union as big as 1199, which claims 300,000 members and retirees).

But trust is not a "get out of jail free" card. Forbes will have to live under the constitutional changes she and so many others voted for. And if these changes do ever come back to bite her, what will that mean for the union? Will she feel as betrayed by SEIU as many of the UHW members, who have been just as active, just as committed, just as central to building SEIU into the social justice union that (at its best) it is?

If so, will she vote with her feet, and disengage from union politics and activism, like so many people do when they are not really in the driver's seat when things are done in their name?

And even if she stays involved, and tries to make sure her voice gets heard, how many other people won't? Folks have enough things to struggle with every day, having a real say in their union shouldn't have to be one of them.

Mark Brenner is the Director of Labor Notes. He can be reached at mark@labornotes.org

Comments

April Dawn Gagnon (not verified) | 01/31/09

OMGosh! Everyone has an agenda. My agenda is: Finding the FACTS to make an educated decision and recommedation to the Stewards and rank-and-file members I work with in a UHW-W facility in N. CA which is now under the control of a Trustee for SEIU. We have a very important decision to make on which way to go. I am not interested in any "pissing match" between leaders. I want to keep my job, income and employment security, benefits, pension/retirement, and ability to have a democratic bargaining process and decision makers for our next contract. I have had enough of the "horror stories" from both sides. I am gonna copy/past my email I sent in search of information in hopes of finding sources for truth. Thank you in advance for reading and possibly helping out. It is as follows,
April:

I am a UHW-W shop steward in the Kaiser Division. I am looking for legitimate facts and accurate information to bring to the members in order to make an informed decision on where we, as Kaiser Permanente UHW-W employees, should put our support and what direction we will follow. The immediate aftermath of this takeover in my facility is the fact that Kaiser's HR representative has told us Stewards that Grievances, after Step 1, are on hold and will not be processed above step 1 until they have a Union "staff representative" to deal with. The options we have are: a) do nothing, accept the Trusteeship from SEIU, and wait and see what happens when our Contract expires next year and "get what we get."; b) fill out a Revocation Form to revoke withholding of Union Dues and Cope contributions as a Statement of non-support for SEIU And/Or fill out a De-Certification card to call for a Vote on which Union we want to represent us, if any, and "get what we get."; c) actively support SEIU in its efforts to take over our Union, encourage our members to support SEIU, and "get what we get." I listen to both sides. SEIU says UHW-W has been crooked, untrustworthy with our dues, and EVERYTHING will continue as normal while the Trusteeship is in effect. For instance, I received a letter yesterday from the Trusteeship of UHW-W which states, in short, :*my contract is still in effect*my dues are the same*my stewards are the same*all grievances and arbitration proceedings will continue to be processed. NOT TRUE*my bargaining committee will remain the same*rank-and-file input into negotiations will continue to be processed*we are still a part of SEIU*I do not need to sign a new card to keep my membership All of the above sounds great! Is it all true? For instance, the stoppage of grievance processing after step 1, I know for a fact, is FALSE What else is wrong in this picture presented by the SEIU Trusteeship? The UHW-W side, the side pushing for De-certification and a "New Union" presented me their side yesterday in a meeting. It was as follows, in short: *De-certify and stop paying dues to SEIU and we can vote in a better union, NUHW, born from the trusted and experienced (proven) former UHW-W leadership.*If we allow SEIU to remain, our contracts will be bargained by SEIU only and we will get what is on SEIU's agenda, an employer-friendly contract which will harm us.*SEIU will institute a "grievance call-center" where we would have to call the call center to file a grievance and the call center would tell us if we have a real grievance or not.*SEIU's Constitution and Bylaws (amended last year at the conference in Puerto Rico) gives SEIU ultimate power and authority to override those of the local.Basically I heard that the Trustee will say whether or not we will have a bargaining committee. There are no guarantees the Trustee will allow us to represent ourselves. The SEIU constitution and bylaws IN EFFECT and now governing us, do not guarantee our right to elect our own officers or negotiate our own contract. The Trusteeship has already suspended the UHW-W constitution and bylaws. Some of the Stewards in my facility will be going to the office of the NLRB seeking facts about our situation. I am contacting rank-and-file members of other area locals that have been assimilated into SEIU's leadership to get their accurate "before and after" experiences. Anyone who has info on where I can obtain facts about each side of the issue, facts and not just "propaganda" please, please contact me. I have to take factual information back to the members so we can all make the best informed decision possible. When my information quest is complete and I am satisfied with the truth, I will make my decision on which way to go and use every ounce of strength I have to fight in support of my decision. p.s. just as I'm doing the spell check to send off this email, the phone rang. It was "Lisa" from New York. She's with SEIU in a call center, doing her job and giving out SEIU's Trusteeship info. Interesting. You Rock Lisa. In Unity (I hope), April

April Dawn Gagnon

Anonymous (not verified) | 12/19/08

The most important point that is made here is the desire to fight anyone who stands in the way of single payer healthcare. We have already had ominous notions from Barack Obama over what is affordable and have seen that his cabinet is not ready to address social change in any real or meaningful way.

He is a defender of the banks first and foremost and we will have to put a ton of pressure on him and the Democrats to get EFCA passed and to get single payer healthcare

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/08/08

"do you really think Sal Roselli would have had such an easy shot to be elected President of UHW if Andy Stern hadn't appointed him to that position when the union was first formed?"

Such bulls***. Sal Rosselli ran an insurgent campaign against the president appointed by the International when Local 250 was trusteed years ago -- and won despite that disadvantage. You don't get much more elected than that.

Whatever International communications staffer wrote that really needs to do their homework.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/08/08

So the fact that he ran an insurgent campaign for what was then about 20,000 members of local 250 gives him some entitlement decades later to be appointed president of 140,000 uhw members including thousands from former local 399 who never voted for him in their lives? Is that democracy uhw style? Come on! Your little fairly tale of "rank and file democracy reformers" in uhw battling the big bad dictatorship of Andy Stern just doesn't hold up under the microscope. This is just a turf fight, pure and simple.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/09/08

So those UHW Officer and E-Board elections in 2006 never happened? So 250 and 399 didn't conduct a local - by - local vote in 2004 that overwhelming approved a merger and elected the officers and e board? Sorry Sister/Brother, those facts just don't add up.

I'll give you this much, this IS a turf fight. But the turf is the soul of the union movement and Andy and all the rest of them are too quick to sell workers short instead of helping them fight for what they deserve. Good thing there's still people like the members of UHW out there ready to fight the fight.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/09/08

Of course there was an election in 2006, after Roselli was first appointed President when uhw was formed for the interim period. Roselli then had the advantage of running as the incumbent. The same thing is happening in the new public locals. Why is it ok for uhw and so horribly undemocratic for other locals that have an appointed leader, like Roselli was, at some point in their life?

The answer is the same reason why Roselli and uhw participated in all the other decisions and practices they are now criticizing for years. They were fine with all of it until their turf was threatened. I can understand being upset about losing members to another local. Just be honest about your motivations. But you've probably figured out that whether homecare workers are in one seiu local vs another is not nearly as interesting to the
"don't organize, criticize" crowd at labor notes than an epic battle over democracy.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/10/08

Fortunately UHW (unlike the international) has plenty of information that's publicly available. The website that was created to promote the merger of L250 and L399 is still up and running (www.seiupowerofone.org).

If you follow this link: http://www.seiupowerofone.org/resources/ConstitutionBylaws.pdf
and go to page 9, you'll see the text of the merger agreement that specifies the election of officers and the e board. No appointments there sister/brother. Nothing but good old fashioned "one-member, one-vote" democracy.

Since I can tell you're not paying very close attention, I'll remind you that this merger happened with a local-by-local vote. Just like the affiliations of 1199 back in the 1990s. Contrast that to the international style of "pooled voting" where every member of a local with 5,000 people could vote against merging with a 10,000 person local still lose, if the larger locals members voted for it.

Quit it with the red herrings and own up to your plan to take power away from members and put it into the hands of leaders in DC. Cast all the aspersions you want at labor notes, they're used to taking flak from bureaucrats. UHW (according to seiuvoice.org) has organized 2,000 workers in to their union this year. Those are real new union members, not an affiliation like SEIU pulled in North Carolina.

It must get boring to not be able to criticize OR organize.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/12/08

So because you told us who would be appointed leaders before the merger, that makes it democratic? What about the part where we get to chose who our leaders are? What about the part where a member gets to decide if he or she wants to run? The fact is there was no legitimate officer election until over a year after the uhw merger and the only choice members had was to vote to merge and accept the appointed leaders given or vote not to merge.

Your logic on that vote is about as sound as your logic that says that adding 2000 more members in card check California is more significant than adding 55,000 in right to work North Carolina.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/24/08

Affiliating a 55,000 member "professional association" in NC that thinks a MEMBER ACTION COORDINATOR is somone who has "Willingness and ability to successfully complete Insurance Agent Certification by the North Carolina State Insurance Department for Life, Accident, and Health." and "Considerable knowledge of marketing and publicity techniques used in effective and successful membership services delivery" shows how bankrupt your sense of growth and advancement is.

Interested ina real union in the RTW southern state of NC? Try looking up the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE Local 150.

The only thing significant of the affiliation of SEANC is that Stern's junta reaffirms its ability to grow on paper and market it as the next best thing to sliced bread.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/07/08

Wow! I've seen biased blogging, but you take it to a new level! What incredible, elitist disdain for the 90% of delegates- most of whom are rank and file members- who aren't with your program! All these stupid, uniformed, "cool-aid" drinking janitors, homecare workers, nurses, etc- just blindly following Andy Stern wherever he leads them. And you call yourself an advocate of the working class? Seems like a little more respect for our opinions are in order before you claim that mantle.

And, since you're so down on staff serving serving as officers of unions...why not mention that so many of the "rank and file" UHW reformers who flooded to the mikes every chance they got were really paid staffers (their Administrative Vice Presidents-Borsos, Lewis, Goldstien, Rodiruez, etc who are all paid staff and automatic delegates). And since you're so opposed to scripting members-- what did you think about UHW VP and staffer John Borsos running with scripts behind the uhw members who got up to speak? And since you've got a problem with appointment of leaders...do you really think Sal Roselli would have had such an easy shot to be elected President of UHW if Andy Stern hadn't appointed him to that position when the union was first formed?

OK... so you've got a crush on uhw. You think they're the bees knees. We get it. But a little balance on the facts would go a long way to help your credibility.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/07/08

The communications department writes the script for the convention. Every rank and filer lined by the international has their remarks pre-written. Same thing for those pro-Stern remarks that appear on progressive blogs - canned comments all of them.

The communications staff is nervous because the presence of an opposition group means there are people not scripted getting up to talk. And if things go badly, communications director Steve Trossman will fire them.

I'm sure there were people specifically assigned to follow you around. That was their job during the convention.

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/08/08

the international communications department might be frustrating and write a lot of the weak language SEIU uses lately, but this is a gross overstatement made above.

many of the statements local rank and file leaders and elected leaders read where written by those workers themselves.

do you think the 1199P member who talked about her daughter dying in iraq then asking folks to support US labor against the war had that written by the international communications staff? im not that cynical.

likewise, whatever is written for members by staff is part of the real world. as mentioned above, im sure brother borsos from california served a similar role as brother regan from ohio, prepping people to speak, etc. but workers have agency and free will and they can say whatever they want from those podiums despite labor notes blogs that made it sound like robots interacting.

Car Games (not verified) | 03/10/09

so opposed to scripting members-- what did you think about UHW VP and staffer John Borsos running with scripts behind the uhw members who got up to speak?

Anonymous (not verified) | 06/07/08

I like black and white better than gray too, but to clarify: while most of the rank and filers speaking from the floor were prepared to do so by staff, many prepared their remarks themselves. I speak from personal experience.

Nice job, Mark. Where's the rest?