When rank and file workers reject contracts, it’s often because the bargaining team negotiated a bad deal. But SEIU Local 1021 workers defeated a contract that kept their 3.75% wage increase, delayed new rounds of layoffs until after a November election could make them unnecessary (assuming revenue measures passed), and only eliminated eleven days of holiday pay over the next two years.The above passage should serve as a glaring warning to everyone who is a member of SEIU who is not part of Nice Scarf's "favored" East Coast locals, that eventually SEIU is going to come to a point where they either have to do the job that you dues-paying members have been paying them to do, or abdicate and pray that the SEIU "brand" will carry the day.
Considering that San Francisco is enduring a fiscal crisis that denies the city’s nonprofit workers any raises for a second straight year, and that requires many nonprofit layoffs, what SEIU negotiators accomplished was astounding. They leveraged a Mayor who needs their political support for his Governor’s race into a tremendous labor contract.
But the rank and file rejected it. Here’s why.
San Francisco can be like a small town. People see politicians in restaurants or on the street, and there is a sense of community here absent from many cities.
Unionized workers are part of this tight-knit community. Many SEIU Local 1021 members working in San Francisco have friends and/or family affiliated with either UNITE HERE Local 2, or the former leadership of SEIU-UHW.
Such SEIU 1021 members are angry with their parent union for its fights with these entities. This anger was stoked by the new NUHW (Sal Rosselli’s deposed former UHW team), which actively lobbied 1021 members to reject the contract; members with UNITE HERE connections did not have to be lobbied – anger against SEIU over their attacks on the local hotel union is already at a fever pitch.
When I told Andy Stern back in March that SEIU would face major blowback if they challenged UNITE HERE, he responded that this might apply to West Coast progressives, but that East Coast progressives backed the faction of UNITE HERE that has since affiliated with SEIU as “Workers United.”
Putting aside the correctness of Stern’s East Coast analysis, the SEIU President clearly foresaw major progressive opposition in San Francisco to SEIU attacks on UNITE HERE. He also knew that Sal Rosselli’s leadership team had progressive Bay Area support, and that NUHW was seeking to make inroads among Local 1021 members.
So SEIU’s international leadership should have anticipated that many Local 1021 members were angry with their union, and would oppose any contract without significant internal organizing and persuasion. An extra special effort would be needed to restore Local 1021 members’ confidence in the SEIU brand.
But SEIU took no special efforts. It devoted no resources to hiring members – known as “lost-timers”— to convince fellow members of the contract’s merits. Nor did the union engage in the massive pro-contract rallies that they used in the past, despite knowing that the SEIU brand was facing a member revolt.
And going from the recent examples that we have seen down at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, and now in the City and County of San Francisco, we now see that those SEIU members on the West Coast who put their faith in Andy had better not put that faith to the test.
Update on 5-19 @4:20 p.m.: A passage above has caught the eye of some folks in NUHW, and they have issued a statement concerning this article on BeyondChron:
Randy Shaw's otherwise insightful post about SEIU Local 1021's rejection of its tentative agreement with the Newsom administration contains the serious misstatement that NUHW, "actively lobbied 1021 members to reject the contract."
This is categorically false. At no time and in no way did NUHW attempt to influence the vote of SEIU Local 1021 members on the agreeement. While some Local 1021 members have voiced concerns to us about the low level of member participation in negotiations and the agreement's lack of layoff protections over its entire term - which could result in workers being forced back to the table for another round of concessions in only a matter of months - NUHW took no action to urge its rejection.
In the context of the current fiscal crisis, it is important that public employees and the City and County of San Francisco try to reach some agreement, however difficult, in order to avoid devastating consequences for providers and recipients of healthcare and human services, in both the public sector and the non-profit sector. We can only hope, along with Shaw, that in the next chapter of this saga, SEIU's misplaced priorities will not prevent Local 1021 from engaging its members fully in the negotiation process, achieving an agreement that provides workers sufficiently secure jobs and standards in exchange for providing the City and County temporary economic relief, and discussing and debating the agreement transparently and thoroughly, in a way that will win workers' confidence in the negotiating committee's recommendation.