In addition, a Wall Street Journal reporter working on this story told Global Labor that SEIU has told them that Andy Stern is not the “SEIU Official” named in the criminal complaint.
The Official had a conversation with Blagojevich on November 12 about Blagojevich becoming head of a non profit entity that Obama would help set up for the Governor. In other discussions with his aide John Harris and other unnamed advisors and consultants, Blagojevich discussed the non profit entity idea as well as the idea of becoming a top staff member of Change To Win, the labor federation that includes SEIU.
Instead, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the NPR source is suggesting, the “SEIU Official” was Tom Balanoff, head of SEIU Local 1, a large local based in Illionis. Balanoff spoke at the DNC in Denver on behalf of Obama.
The only oddity in this new information is that the criminal complaint says the SEIU Official spoke to Blagojevich while in Washington, D.C. Tom Balanoff is based in Illinois. However, Andy Stern is based in Washington as is Change To Win. The Obama team is based in Illinois.
Also, Balanoff has no official role in Change To Win. Stern, however, is a leading force in Change To Win as one of its founders and now a member of its Leadership Council.
Stern, the head of SEIU, is a powerful but controversial labor leader. SEIU has been on the defensive recently because of charges related to violations of internal union democracy of union members. In addition, Stern is part of a controversial effort to establish ties between the American labor movement and the Chinese communist government’s labor body, the All China Federation of Trade Unions. SEIU raised $1.7 million to support the political campaigns of Blagojevich.
Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein speculates on NPR that the idea of Blagojevich becoming head of Change To Win would have been met with ridicule inside the labor movement. I agree, but the problem is that the criminal complaint suggests to me that the idea did not originate with Blagojevich.
In fact, to me what is ridiculous is to think that it did. It appears to me that someone with ties to labor as well as Obama or Jarrett may have dangled the idea of a position with Change To Win in front of the Governor.
This is reinforced by the fact that the complaint says the Governor actually balked at the Change To Win idea instead stating he preferred a position with an independent non profit entity because it could be guaranteed now that the position would exist in two years time when the Governor left office. (Some in organized labor have speculated that Change To Win may merge with the AFL-CIO in the near future.) It was the non profit idea that the unnamed SEIU Official agreed to “put up the flag pole.”
Unanswered as of today is whether Balanoff was indeed the SEIU Official, whether he engaged in the discussions with Blagojevich on his own initiative or with the involvement of more senior SEIU or Change To Win figures like Stern, whether Stern had any involvement at all, and who the unnamed “Advisor B” is.