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From the May-June 2008 issue of Union Democracy Review #173

Opposition wins most delegates from big SEIU local

More than ten years ago, Cathy Hackett and Jim Hard were elected the top leaders of SEIU Local 1000. One of the early supporters of their democratic reform movement was Alex Hernandez. Since then, relations have changed drastically. In elections for the local's 61 delegates to the SEIU convention, an opposition group, led by Hernandez, contested 49 slots and won 33, a clear majority. In a surprising upset, Donna Snodgrass, an insurgent leader, came in second and Hernandez eighth, edging out Hackett and Hard who came in twelfth and seventeenth.

Hackett and Hard are strong supporters of Andy Stern, SEIU president; Hernandez backs the opposition platform of Sal Rosselli's United Healthcare Workers-West.

But Hernandez will not get a seat at the convention. On charges of encouraging a decertification movement (which he insists are contrived), he was suspended from membership and barred from serving as a delegate. By filing suit against him in state court, his opponents forced him to resign from his elected position as member of the local's Board of Directors.

SEIU Local 1000 represents about 90,000 State of California employees, including doctors, janitors, nurses, correction workers, research and technology workers and others. Some 65,000 are actually members of the union, the rest are agency fee payers.

Hernandez's opposition group, CSEUnited includes many local chapter leaders and other local officials. The group charged that over the years democracy had declined as power concentrated in the hands of the president and rule changes stifled dissent and undermined chapter autonomy. CSEUnited unsuccessfully opposed a recent hefty dues increase. It tried but failed to get access to financial records, including those of a special escrow fund administered by the local's attorney. In charges at the California Public Employees Review Board, the local accuses the opposition CSEUnited of being a "competing organization", apparently laying the groundwork for a charge of dual unionism. Hernandez is planning to appeal his exclusion to the convention's credentials committee.

More resources on Change to Win and SEIU:
See Benson's Union Democracy Blog for several articles
Stern Employees International Union
Reflections on the SEIU Convention in Puerto Rico
Andy Stern is slipping off the pedestal
SEIU needs a public review board
On the eve of the SEIU Convention
Opposition wins most delegates from big SEIU local
Fight in Ohio between SEIU and California Nurses revives old issue: When employers welcome unions at the NLRB
On "democratic" centralism: Stern's illusion and democracy's nightmare
Healthcare leader raps Stern; quits SEIU board
SEIU rearranges 600,000 into mega locals
Debate on Union Democracy and Change to Win
If you can't woo 'em, sue 'em! An ingenious twist in punishing dissent in the SEIU
SEIU's Unite to Win blog reviewed.
Local 509 asks questions about democracy in the SEIU
New Unity Partnership:Sweeney Critics would bureaucratize to organize.
Service Employees: Mass. merger in Local 888.
Benson's Union Democracy blog.
Student Labor Activists support union democracy.
Articles on the Labor Notes site on NUP from various sources.
See UDR articles on the Carpenters (UBCJA) for case studies in merger and bureaucratization.
Several articles on the New Unity Partnership are available on the BC Carpenters website.
Find articles on the consolidation of power in the Carpenters union on the main UDR page.
An exchange on union democracy between Herman Benson and Steve Fraser, on the Laborers.org website (click on Fraser's name for a link to his article)
Links to rank-and-file websites in the NUP unions: Carpenters, Hotel and Restaurant Employees, Laborers, Needle Trades (UNITE), Service Employees (building services, public employees).

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