Andy Stern’s Next Gig? Board Member at a Bio-Warfare Pharma Company

SIGA Technologies, “a company specializing in the development of pharmaceutical agents to combat bio-warfare pathogens,” announced Monday that Andy Stern, “labor leader and prominent advocate for reform,” has joined their board of directors.

Why would Big Pharma bio-warriors be interested in the just-resigned president of the Service Employees (SEIU)? Dr. Eric Rose, SIGA's CEO, gets right to the point: “His insight, experience, and leadership, particularly his understanding of how our federal government works, will complement the skill sets of our existing board members.”

Stern’s new “activist” partners at SIGA include the likes of Michael Bayer, CEO of the national security consulting firm Dumbarton Strategies and director of the big military contractor DynCorp, notorious for its loose approach to accounting standards in its billion-dollar Iraq contracts. No doubt board meetings at SIGA begin and end with moving the progressive foreign policy and social justice agenda Stern has so proudly hailed over these last decades.

The press release goes on to say that Stern has been cited as one of the most influential leaders on health care. After all, he was the most frequent White House visitor in the last year and was “named a Presidential appointee to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.”

Stern and his gang certainly have become experts on deficits after blowing nearly $100 million of the members’ dues on raiding other unions and declaring war on its members and democracy in SEIU, headlined by the ruthless campaign against dissidents in California. Along with the damage done to workers in and out of SEIU went our hopes for labor law reform and real progress on our concerns in D.C.

Now the former boy wonder of labor reveals the utility of setting that White House visit record while his day job was becoming less jolly by the hour. How exactly can Stern be of use to the corporate elite he alternately scorned and cut deals with?

We can gather what SIGA plans for Stern in the company’s desperate scramble to keep its lock on the public teat secure now that deficits are the watchword and the Iraq war’s heady days of no-bid contracting are dwindling. Rose, SIGA’s CEO, sees the writing on the wall.

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“Despite the serious challenges facing lawmakers trying to balance the nation's budget, now is not the time to re-appropriate funding,” he pleaded before a Congressional subcommittee last month. “The promise of government funding in this fashion drives private sector investment. The investment community will only commit if it believes the federal marketplace is reliable.”

Ah, there’s the nut. The larger issue for today’s biowarfare exec is knowing how to work the system. The big payday follows large amounts of grease flowing from the body politic, the kind of thing only the right sort of juiced-in character can guarantee.

SIGA makes it clear where all that burnishing of White House insider credentials is planned for use: The company requires funding from government contracts and grants, it needs governmental approvals to market potential products, and it can’t risk that regulatory requirements will delay or prevent its products from getting to market.

It wasn’t bad enough for Stern to damage workers who took risks and made sacrifices only to see their organizing or contract campaigns smashed. All the while, he was knitting a golden parachute, peddling himself to the titans of capital who have declared a war of their own—on the working stiffs and huddled masses Stern once claimed to speak for.


Mike Wilzoch began nearly 40 years of labor and community organizing with the United Farm Workers in 1973. He is a 23-year veteran of SEIU in Colorado and California, beginning with the inaugural Justice for Janitors campaign in Denver in ’86. He was later elected president of Local 105 in Colorado, and served at the invitation of Andy Stern on the President’s Committee 2000. After leading J4J efforts in San Diego, he worked with United Healthcare Workers-West, where he was purged after the international union trusteeship last year.