Stern’s exit from SEIU catches many off-guard

Don’t ex­pect ma­jor changes, ex­perts say

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page - Joe Carl­son

With the abrupt de­par­ture last week of Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union Pres­i­dent Andy Stern, hospi­tal of­fi­cials should ex­pect a con­tin­u­a­tion of the types of traits and tac­tics seen in the na­tion’s largest health­care union in re­cent years.

Stern’s de­par­ture from the 2.2 mil­lion-mem­ber SEIU came as a swift sur­prise to ob­servers, in­clud­ing many who con­sid­ered them­selves keyed into the union’s in­ner-work­ings. Stern left no ap­par­ent suc­ces­sion plan in place, gave no spe­cific rea­son for his de­par­ture, and said pub­licly he has no job lined up for when he leaves of­fice this month.

Nev­er­the­less, ex­perts say the leaders within SEIU who ap­pear po­si­tioned to take the helm of the na­tion’s fastest-grow­ing union were groomed un­der Stern’s tute­lage and are not ex­pected to make ma­jor changes to the way the union op­er­ates. That in­cludes SEIU’s ma­jor fo­cus on tar­get­ing un­rep­re­sented hospi­tal em­ploy­ees for fu­ture or­ga­ni­za­tional growth, and the union’s moderate stance to­ward em­ployer re­la­tions as com­pared to other more-ag­gres­sive unions.

For ex­am­ple, the SEIU’s on­go­ing cam­paign to tar­get work­ers at HCA fa­cil­i­ties in many South­ern states in part­ner­ship with the newly formed Na­tional Nurses United, or NNU, doesn’t ap­pear likely to change, sev­eral ob­servers said. NNU of­fi­cials de­clined to of­fer any com­ment on the changeover in lead­er­ship.

One health­care-spe­cific arena where the change could make an im­pact is Cal­i­for­nia. SEIU is sched­uled to hold dozens of union elec­tions in com­ing months as mem­bers are asked to de­cide whether they want to stay within SEIU or join a ri­val up­start, the Na­tional Union of Health­care Work­ers, or NUHW, whose lead­er­ship is com­posed of for­mer SEIU of­fi­cials who were ousted by Stern last year.

The new group’s big­gest goal is to ask for a sim­i­lar vote among SEIU’s ap­prox­i­mately 45,000 work­ers at Kaiser Per­ma­nente fa­cil­i­ties, but the out­come of that pe­ti­tion re­mains un­cer­tain.

In a five-minute video mes­sage to the pub­lic an­nounc­ing his de­par­ture on YouTube, Stern specif­i­cally men­tioned the al­liance with “one-time ad­ver­saries like Kaiser Per­ma­nente” as one of his top ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing his 14 years as pres­i­dent of the SEIU.

But por­tray­ing Stern as a vil­lain who es­pouses top-down lead­er­ship in­stead of lo­cal con­trol has long been one of the main ral­ly­ing cries for the Na­tional Union of Health­care Work­ers, which wants to suck up dis­af­fected SEIU mem­bers into new bar­gain­ing units. “It re­moves an is­sue for the NUHW: the Stern-bash­ing,” says James Triv­i­sonno, pres­i­dent of Detroit-based IRI Con­sul­tants.

Sal Ros­selli, the in­terim pres­i­dent of the NUHW, said the lead­er­ship change is un­likely to lead to a new era of re­la­tions be­tween his or­ga­ni­za­tion and SEIU. “I don’t see a pos­si­bil­ity of that, be­cause there’s a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence in ide­ol­ogy” be­tween the groups, Ros­selli said. “I see no dif­fer­ence be­tween him and Anna Burger and Mary Kay Henry.”

An SEIU spokes­woman con­firmed in an e-mail that SEIU Sec­re­tary/Trea­surer Anna Burger and Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Mary Kay Henry were the most of­ten-dis­cussed suc­ces­sors to Stern.

Steve Early, a for­mer na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive

Henry is the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent at SEIU.

Burger is the union’s sec­re­tary/trea­surer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.