Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Andy Stern Bio in the WaPo

The Washington Post has a piece on Andy Stern, the President of the Service Employees International Union. It's lengthy, and a fairly psychoanalytical article that focuses on how the death of his daughter helped push in to the point where he led the SEIU out of the AFL-CIO this summer.

There's much that's useful in it, but it suffers from what is common about labor coverage-focusing on labor leaders as the movement itself, which they most certainly are not. This piece from Arizona focuses on their organizing strategies there, and lays off the 'union-boss' bent.

I myself go back and forth about my feelings with regard to the SEIU. I think that their service model kind of sucks (that's the way in which union members receive assistance from the union when they have a problem). They also have a bad reputation when it comes to internal union democracy.

On the other hand, they can absolutely organize the shit of some exploited workers. They excel at it. They're the only union with a focus on private-sector organizing to grow their membership. So clearly, they're doing something right. Unlike my union, I think they've also been successful 'branding' themselves with workers around a few key issues--key among them health care and privatization, Wal-Mart, and public funding for services. They're an issues union.

And they can raise the standard of living from those they represent. That's where I think they shine strongest--bringing a sort of rough justice for a wide group of people whom the economy has largely left behind, and whose interests would never be addressed without representation from a union.

They're the only other union I would consider seriously going to work for, warts and all.

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