This insightful article in the Wall Street Journal lays bare the dangers of the top down approach to organizing so much in favor at SEIU these days.
As detailed here, SEIU used a close relationship with Illinois Governor Blagojevich, bought and paid for, to sign into union membership thousands of health care workers without the nasty and unpredictable process of conducting a union election. Now it appears that Tom Balanoff, a key hatchet man for SEIU head Andy Stern and the head of a major SEIU local in Illinois, was the unnamed “SEIU Official” who agreed to “put up the flag pole” the disgraced Governor’s interest in a pay off in return for backing a particular candidate for the now vacant Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.
SEIU did the same kind of pay to play deal in California – with now ousted Governor Gray Davis – offering huge support for Davis’ re-election campaign in return for a deal to sign into union membership home health care workers. That generates huge dues flow for SEIU but not very much rank and file participation in the union.
Here is how one analyst described it:
Stern has also boosted his rolls with workers who aren’t really workers at all. In California, for example, Stern cannily used political contributions and organizing to reroute welfare dollars into his union and create a whole new class of members. After a decade’s worth of organizing politicians in Sacramento—ex-Gov. Gray Davis got $625,000 from SEIU—and also the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Stern persuaded them to create an agency that would serve as the employer for home-care workers. Then in 1999, the agency held an election so that SEIU could become the exclusive bargaining agent. When SEIU—which faced no opposition—won the low-turnout affair, 74,000 members were added to its rolls.
But most of those home-care workers are parents and children who got government money for taking care of family members or close friends. They didn’t provide nursing services but simply bathed and fed their disabled children or elderly parents. Most home-care workers are part-time, working for one client. Their average pay is less than $700 a month (now minus dues to SEIU).
And of course SEIU and the AFL-CIO are now lobbying heavily in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act which would also allow union officials to by pass actual elections. Former NLRB Chair Bill Gould has written that it would be far more effective to make the election process more effective than to rely on the “card check” procedure the proposed bill would put in place.