What's behind Andy Stern's resignation from the SEIU? 

No doubt that the politically influential union head was embattled -- the SEIU was facing pushbacks from unions that had rejected it's heavy-handed tactics. Further, the much ballyhooed "Change to Win" coalition that the was supposed to completely remake all of America's unions in the SEIU's image seems to have completely fizzled. In a thorough and illuminating post, Michelle Malkin highlights this Washintonian profile of Stern that may have some answers about what's going on:

Change to Win’s agenda was essentially to elevate the SEIU model of organizing—recruiting members and pressuring employers via corporate-accountability campaigns that targeted the public image of management—to serve as the industry standard for labor organizing. A no-less-prominent goal of Change to Win was Stern’s vision of a reorganized national leadership for labor—a federation that would streamline smaller, traditional craft-affiliated union locals into bigger operations able to organize across an economic sector. The textbook model of the corporate campaign was SEIU’s Justice for Janitors initiative in the 1990s, which proved influential in shoring up the International union’s power base.

But on balance, the Change to Win experiment has proved disappointing—and the federation may well be on the verge of being folded into a new accord to bring Stern and his allies back into strategic alliance with Richard Trumka, the former United Mine Workers head who last September was elected to succeed retiring AFL-CIO head John Sweeney. Negotiations with the former mother union are delicate, Stern says, but are moving gingerly forward—thanks in large part to the efforts of former Michigan representative David Bonior, an ardent labor advocate who once served as House Democratic whip, to bring both federations to the bargaining table this summer.

“You now have the first chance for every major labor union in the country to be in the same organization,” Stern says. The challenge, he stresses, will be to redress the schism that triggered the Change to Win camp’s defection in the first place—the mandate to keep growing versus focusing on politics and politicians.

It's possible that a re-merger of the two unions would create a more powerful union. But it seems more likely that if the SEIU rejoins the AFL-CIO, that the SEIU's days as a shooting star may be burning out.

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Mark Hemingway

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