Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Unconventional Convention, Part One

Very little about the history of NUHW has been conventional as unions go, and the Founding Convention of this new union fell absolutely in line with that trait.

After all, you would think that an organization that seeks to supplant The Purple Plague would choose to do so at an actual convention center. Instead, NUHW chose to hold its convention at Everett Middle School, smack in the middle of the Mission District of San Francisco, on a sunny and breezy Saturday morning.

Now, that's not to say that there weren't some conventional aspects to the NUHW Founding Convention. There was the swag, the shirts, the food, but most of all there was the energy and conviction that comes from gathering together a diverse group of people, all dedicated to the common effort of setting right what has gone so terribly wrong. As the first speaker, Angela Glasper, set forth in her speech, "why are we doing this? We had no other choice...we have lost our rights to vote, our rights to participate in negotiations...We can not, and will not, abandon the principles that brought us here."

No one was under any illusion that SEIU would not be discussed in great detail during this day. You can't discuss the history of how NUHW was formed without almost a bill of particulars against SEIU and Andy Stern, and Angela laid Our Glorious Maximum Leader out and down for the count:
  • The SNF Alliance template contracts;
  • The elimination of traditional stewards with the switch to SEIU Call Centers (or as she put it, the "1-800-I-Got-(effin)-Fired number");
  • The lockout of the Tenet bargaining team with a switch to International negotiators;
  • Predatory pooled membership voting rules on mergers;
  • The IHSS/LTC jurisdiction switch jammed through during the San Juan convention;
  • ...and last but not least, the trusteeship.
All of the above and more led to the record-setting signup of petitions for people to switch to NUHW - just how much of a record-setter it has been was gotten into later.

The next speaker was Mike Casey, President of Local 2 of UNITE/HERE in San Francisco, and also president of the San Francisco Labor Council. He took time to let everyone know that the Stern approach, that "unionizing" is the same as "organizing," is dead wrong, and that unions should not be acting like corporations. He also told us that the concept of organizing and winning contracts should not be seen as an either/or proposition, as it is in SEIU today courtesy of the "organizing model" approach so often seen in SEIU drives.

Casey then told the audience about the long alliance that the former UHW (now in the guise of NUHW) has had with Local 2, including the efforts made by Rosselli and his staff on the part of Local 2 to maintain the health coverage of the Local 2 membership during their strike in 2004. Mr. Casey put it quite clearly: "I will NEVER forget that."

Mr. Casey then went on to describe his newly emerging fight with SEIU through its proxy organization in Workers United, and stated that both unions (NUHW and UNITE/HERE) were in for a long, protracted fight against an unprincipled foe who is willing to forego principle in order to reach agreement - and stated, "I call that selling out!"

He then told the audience that, until the trusteeship, UHW was a leader in the fight to rebuild the labor movement which had become moribund in the latter part of the 20th Century, and that under the current leadership of NUHW, we can return once again to the vanguard of the labor movement in the 21st Century.

More to come in Part Two, sometime tomorrow...

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