A field of one

Henry emerges as likely suc­ces­sor to Stern at SEIU

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Shawn Rhea

Hos­pi­tal as­so­ci­a­tions and many chap­ters of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union re­mained tight-lipped af­ter word that Mary Kay Henry is poised to take over lead­er­ship af­ter a ri­val can­di­date ended her own bid for the po­si­tion.

At least one la­bor at­tor­ney who has fre­quently en­gaged in con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions with the SEIU said, how­ever, that the devel­op­ment should bode well for health­care em­ploy­ers and work­ers given Henry’s in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the in­dus­try as the union’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent in­volved in health­care.

The union also rep­re­sents prop­erty-ser­vice em­ploy­ees and govern­ment work­ers, but more than half of the SEIU’s 2.2 mil­lion mem­bers are health­care work­ers.

“She’s a known en­tity, and that’s im­por­tant given all the changes that are in the works un­der health­care re­form,” said G. Roger King, a part­ner at Jones Day. He de­scribed Henry as some­one “em­ploy­ers will be able to work with” on reach­ing la­bor con­tracts.

News of Henry’s im­pend­ing lead­er­ship came late last week af­ter re­lease of an e-mail sent to the union’s ex­ec­u­tive board by SEIU In­ter­na­tional Sec­re­tary-Trea­surer Anna Burger an­nounc­ing she was end­ing her own bid for the top spot. “I am writ­ing to you to­day to let you know while I would have trea­sured the op­por­tu­nity to serve as SEIU pres­i­dent, I am with­draw­ing my can­di­dacy,” Burger wrote.

It has been widely known that Burger was the choice of ex­it­ing SEIU Pres­i­dent Andy Stern to take over lead­er­ship of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The union dou­bled its mem­ber­ship dur­ing Stern’s 14-year stint, but the de­part­ing pres­i­dent gar­nered his share of crit­ics. Many have faulted him for a rift be­tween the health­care worker mem­ber­ship in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the sub­se­quent cre­ation of a ri­val union called the Na­tional Union of Health­care Work­ers (April 19, p. 10).

The NUHW, led by for­mer SEIU-United Health Work­ers West Pres­i­dent Sal Ros­selli, is locked in a mem­ber­ship bat­tle with the SEIU for health­care work­ers in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Some ob­servers be­lieve that con­flict and other

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