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What really happened

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005

If you want to know what was really going on in the brief but very intense fight between SEIU and AFSCME over the right to represent thousands of childcare workers, read this.

For a while last week, Illinois was home to the kind of union-against-union labor war that America hasn’t seen since American Federation of Labor (AFL) unions and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unions used to clobber each other while fighting for new members, in the days before the two federations merged 50 years ago.

Hundreds of organizers from both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) were pounding on doors in rival efforts to persuade the state’s 48,000 child-care workers to vote to join their respective unions. What made the campaign exceptional, however, was that the SEIU was able to enlist hundreds of additional organizers from other unions to pound the pavement on its behalf. […]

Indeed, the unions’ interventions only make sense in the context of the civil war now enveloping American labor. The unions that sided with the SEIU in Chicago are the same unions that sided with the SEIU at the AFL-CIO executive-council meeting in Las Vegas earlier this month in its battle against the administration of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Conversely, AFSCME is Sweeney’s biggest supporter. The relationships among AFSCME and the SEIU and its allies were already strained before AFSCME’s late-in-the-game decision to contest SEIU’s multiyear campaign for the right to represent the child-care workers. Coming as it did less than three weeks before workers were to start voting, and on the eve of what was clearly going to be a highly contentious executive-council meeting in any event, AFSCME’s entry to the fray set off fireworks in Vegas, with SEIU President Andy Stern and AFSCME President Gerald McEntee engaging in several shouting matches and with Stern trying to get Sweeney to persuade the federation to call AFSCME off.

This is an excellent article that even delves into a bit of Illinois politics.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

5 Comments
  1. - Bill Baar - Wednesday, Mar 30, 05 @ 5:25 am:

    I hate to see a labor movement dependent on representing public employees. Unions need to redefine what they offer and I’ve heard more creative thinking from Andy Stern then Sweeny. Push the money back to the locals and away from Washington.


  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 30, 05 @ 6:47 am:

    Doesn’t matter who represents them. It will only continue to put inflationary pressures on the budget and Springfield, because now there is another special interest group that needs to be paid off with public funds.

    I say unionize them all. The sooner the system implodes, the sooner we can start to rebuild.


  3. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 30, 05 @ 8:47 am:

    Rich
    Here is a link. Read the essay by Jim McNeill. It is more indepth of the labor movement but makes the same kind of conclusions regarding the AFL-CIO.
    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/


  4. - DownLeft - Wednesday, Mar 30, 05 @ 12:58 pm:

    These workers are paid poorly by the state and deserve the wage and benefit increases they have long lobbied for.

    This move makes SEIU Local 880 one of the largest union locals in the nation. I don’t think you can underestimate their grassroots organizing power in combication with ACORN, who they are closely affiliated with.


  5. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 1, 05 @ 4:35 am:

    Difference between SEIU and AFSCME. SEIU is willing to forego insurance coverage, pension, etc. which is something AFSCME fights hard for. Both good unions.

    It was a mess. Period. Why not bring peoples wages up where they belong and give them representation? Unions, especially AFSCME, are moving into community based programs to provide representation to workers, have been for years.

    And yes, too much money is going to Washington that should stay at the local level.


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