After some quiet time following last year’s departure of union bosses Andy Stern and Anna Burger, it appears the purple behemoth known as Service Employees International Union, has been quietly plotting its own Egyptian-style revolution. Given the ever-shrinking private-sector union membership ranks, as well as the realization that its political influence has shrunk as well, the SEIU’s plan is apparently to engage in a class-warfare based campaign.
According to a Politico piece, SEIU’s plan (called “Fight for a Fair Economy”) and will reach outside the union movement in order to “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.”
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry acknowledged in an interview that the new strategy, which would include aggressive outreach to non-union members, is “a risk.”
“We felt like we were called in this moment to roll the dice and to think about how to use our members resources for the greatest hope for changing members lives,” she said. “I hope what people will see is more of what we all witnessed in Madison. … more people in the streets making demands about what kind of America we want to see.”
The plan does not revolve as centrally around the 2012 elections as the SEIU’s political program did in 2008, when it was the largest outside supporter of candidate Obama. It does, however, aim to organize public campaigns for economic issues around “national flash points” including this August’s recess, corporate shareholder meetings next spring, and the debates and conventions next year. Henry was elected last year with a promise to reorient the union, and some Democratic officials worry the change will mean a less intense focus on their party’s needs.
It appears to be an expansion of the plans announced earlier this year when the Wall Street Journal noted the SEIU’s campaign to target specific cities.
The campaign—called Fight for a Fair Economy—will focus on mobilizing mostly low-wage minority workers in 10 to 15 cities, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, Miami and Detroit, according to the memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The SEIU wants the effort to peak in the summer of 2012, with events at primaries, town-hall meetings and other campaign venues, according to the memo.
SEIU spokeswoman Inga Skippings declined to confirm that the memo reflected the final plans of the union, which has two million members, and said its strategy continues to evolve.
The cities designated for the campaign have high concentrations of SEIU members and are in states where governors have proposed cutting benefits to public-sector workers amid worries over pension costs and broader budget woes. In some of the targeted states, lawmakers are considering “right to work” legislation that would eliminate laws making union membership mandatory whenever a union is formed at an employer.
The board member predicted the effort would cost “tens of millions” of dollars; the SEIU spent more than $70 million on the 2008 elections.
Other than an attempt at countering the Tea Party protests that emerged in 2009, it appears the SEIU’s plan won’t be anything more than a loud, obnoxious waste of its members’ dues. Then again, what’s new?
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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