Why is the SEIU boss the White House’s most frequent visitor?
The "Highlights: (or low-lights, as the case may be):
The Friday before Halloween, in response to requests from the public, the White House released records of the visitors it had received between January and July. ....the man who appeared most frequently is less well-known. His name is Andrew Stern, and during the first six months of Obama’s tenure, he visited the White House 21 times — about three times per month. Most of these visits included an intimate meeting with the president or other senior officials. Among outsiders, Stern enjoys unrivaled access to the White House. And the more you know about him, the spookier that sounds.Why do I suddenly believe all the stuff Glenn Beck has been saying.....?
Stern is president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a federation of health-care, public-sector, and custodial workers that claims approximately 2 million members....
In 2005, Stern engineered a break with the AFL-CIO over frustrations with Sweeney’s leadership. Six other unions, including the Teamsters, followed Stern. The breakaways formed their own federation called Change to Win and adopted SEIU’s one-two punch: intimidate businesses and, if that doesn’t work, exploit their soft spot for corporate welfare.
On the intimidation front, SEIU has worked with the radical Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The group once served as a valuable ally, but its reputation now lies in tatters....
The SEIU-ACORN link is deep and longstanding. At least one SEIU local, Chicago’s Local 880, was organized by ACORN and run by it for 20 years. An SEIU official recently testified that the local had severed its ACORN ties, but Chris Berg, a former special assistant at the Office of Labor Management Standards, says, “I’m very skeptical.” Keith Kelleher, who spent many years running ACORN in Chicago, is still the local’s head organizer. “They’ve been wed together for so long, I don’t think they can divorce,” says Berg.
Stern’s real breakthrough came when he realized that labor could offer a carrot as well as a stick Around 50 percent of SEIU’s members work in the health-care industry as nurses, hospital attendants, and lab techs. The facilities that employ such workers benefit from a number of government programs. SEIU’s pitch was simple: Let us organize your workforce, and we’ll use our lobbying power to push for increased government spending on health care.
It worked. Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo recently observed in The Weekly Standard that, “under the brilliant leadership of Dennis Rivera, [SEIU Local] 1199 built a top-notch political operation, and with the hospitals, which were barred from political activity, formed a partnership to maximize the flow of government revenue.” The alliance has been so successful, they wrote, that New York now spends as much on Medicaid as California and Texas combined. Rivera now serves as the SEIU’s point man on national health-care-reform legislation, with over 400 union staff members working full time at his disposal. Sen. Chuck Schumer called him “one of the few key players” shaping the final bill.
In pursuit of his vision, Stern has turned the SEIU into a massive grassroots army that can mobilize in behalf of candidates and legislation. The scope of its activities in 2008 was epic. Stern bragged that “we spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama — $60.7 million, to be exact — and we’re proud of it.”
Undaunted, SEIU has set aside $85 million to spend over the next two years on political advocacy. The union started the year with three major objectives: a union-friendly stimulus, a union-friendly health-care bill, and a bill that would make it easier to organize workers into unions. It has brought its influence to bear on all three of these debates, with varying degrees of success.
The most illustrative example of SEIU’s clout during this process came when the Obama administration threatened to withhold stimulus funds from the state of California if it went ahead with a planned reduction in payments to home health-care workers. The administration set up a conference call with state officials to discuss whether the cuts violated the terms of the stimulus, and state officials were surprised to learn that the administration had invited SEIU representatives to join the call. “This was really atypical and outside any norm I am familiar with,” California secretary of health and human services Kim Belshe told the Los Angeles Times. The administration backed down from the threat, but only after the story had leaked and caused significant blowback.
The creation of a government-run insurance plan is an especially important priority for the SEIU. “The nexus between government and private industry would give SEIU a toehold to organize more workers,” explains J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts. Once the public option is in place, SEIU can pressure the bureaucracy to implement union-friendly policies. For example, the public option “might only reimburse hospitals that are unionized or have a neutrality position toward unions,” Wilson says.
So far, SEIU has been successful at getting most of its priorities included in the health-care bill. Democrats have renewed their commitment to the public option, which once looked dead on arrival.
Card-check legislation: As important as the Democrats’ health-care plan is to SEIU, the union’s top priority remains the Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as the card-check bill. Under SEIU’s preferred version of the bill, employers would have to recognize a union once a majority of its employees had signed petition cards. This process would allow union organizers to identify holdouts and pressure them into signing up. The bill would also require business owners to allow union organizers to hold meetings with employees on the business’s property, while forbidding the owners to hold mandatory meetings to discuss unionization.
Finally, the bill includes a binding-arbitration provision that would allow the NLRB to impose a union contract on a business if negotiations with its union broke down. SEIU loves this provision, because Obama just named one of its lawyers, Craig Becker, to the NLRB. Businesses negotiating with the SEIU would have two choices: accept SEIU’s demands voluntarily or have the SEIU-friendly NLRB accept them for you.
These three goals have one thing in common: All are meant to raise the percentage of workers who belong to a union. State by state, unions are ensuring that the only employers eligible for stimulus money are those with union workforces. On health care, the Democrats’ bill is designed to shift a mind-boggling amount of money into the health-care sector while increasing the government’s administrative control over it — and anyone who believes the Democrats’ rhetoric about cutting costs is encouraged to look at what Dennis Rivera accomplished in New York. Meanwhile, card-check legislation would throw open the doors of private businesses to union organizers and tie their hands when they try to resist.