Well, it turns out that SEIU President Andy Stern did meet with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The governor’s calendar indicates a meeting with Stern the day before the Presidential election.
As this piece in the Wall Street Journal indicates, SEIU was deeply involved in one of their pay for play schemes with the Governor. Over the last decade SEIU has bought its way into a kind of “organizing” of large numbers of government employees and some who are not really workers at all but simply recipients of government aid.
SEIU President Stern has tried to portray this top down bureaucratic effort as the way forward for American labor. But SEIU refused to reveal the details of the relationship between SEIU and the Illinois governor when the crisis surfaced.
This lack of transparency undermines labor’s credibility when it is needed most. The latest revelation could also damage efforts now underway to re-unify the AFL-CIO and the breakaway union group Change To Win, that is led by Stern.
What is important about this latest revelation is that it makes clearer why the Governor could have been discussing with aides the possibility of a position with the Change To Win group in return for appointing Obama aide Valerie Jarrett to replace Obama in the US Senate.
Some in and around the labor movement, such as labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein of U.C. Santa Barbara, thought the idea that Blagojevich would get such a position ridiculous.
But I pointed out that the idea almost certainly did not originate with Blagojevich. Until now it was thought that the Governor had only met with Illinois SEIU official Tom Balanoff who would not have the clout to offer the Governor a position with Change To Win. Now that a connection with Stern has been made, however, the possibility that it was SEIU that discussed the Change To Win position with the Governor takes on added credibility.
The Governor himself was sceptical of the idea and lobbied instead for SEIU support for an appointment to head a non profit entity of some sort.