Republican control of all three branches of government in Washington DC has the nation’s second largest labor union worried about what a Trump administration might mean for their already declining membership and corresponding union dues. In response, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which represents nearly 2 million government, health care, and building-services workers and wields an annual budget of $300 million, has taken steps to slash its budget by 30% in an effort to hoard cash “to fight-back against” Trump’s “extremist-run government”. Per an internal memo from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry reviewed by Bloomberg:
“Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry wrote in an internal memo dated December 14. “These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.” After citing the need to “dramatically re-think” how to implement the union’s strategy, Henry’s all-staff letter announces SEIU “must plan for a 30% reduction” in the international union’s budget by January 1, 2018, including a 10 percent cut effective at the start of 2017.
Asked about what the memo could mean for its current campaigns, SEIU didn’t offer specifics. “As we prepare to fight-back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government, we know we must realign our resources and streamline our investments to buttress and broaden our movement to restore economic and democratic opportunity for all families,” said spokeswoman Sahar Wali. “As part of this process, we are currently looking at possible ways to improve our budgets.”
Of course, the SEIU is likely most worried about so-called “Right to Work” laws which allow workers the choice to decline paying fees to the unions that represent them. But if unions are providing such a great service for their membership then shouldn’t workers to happy to pay their dues?
In Michigan, for example, Republicans in 2012 passed a private sector “Right to Work” law that let workers decline to fund the unions representing them, a public sector law doing the same for government employees, and a third law stripping University of Michigan graduate student researchers and home-health aides of their collective-bargaining rights. Afterwards, SEIU’s Michigan healthcare local lost most of its membership.
With Republican dominance in Washington, the threats to SEIU will get more grave—everything from slashing health-care spending to passing a federal law extending “Right to Work” to all private-sector employees could be on the table. One of the most widely expected scenarios is that a Trump appointee will provide the decisive fifth vote on the Supreme Court’s labor cases. The court already ruled in 2014 that making government-funded home health aides pay union fees violated the First Amendment, and a future case could apply the same logic to all government employees, effectively making the whole public sector “Right to Work.” SEIU was bracing for such a ruling earlier this year, in a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but got an unexpected reprieve when Scalia’s death left the court tied four to four. With several similar cases brought by union opponents already making their way through lower courts, it may not last for long.
In the past few years, the SEIU has been most vocal about it’s “Fight for $15” campaign which has drawn support from the likes of Bernie Sanders. Of course, the effort seemingly ignores the cost of living differences between the Midwest and large metropolitan areas like San Francisco and New York City in arguing that a $15 minimum wage is somehow perfect for the entire country.
According to the “Fight For $15” website, the organization started with just a few hundred fast food workers in New York City and has since spread to over 300 cities and a variety of industries. Meanwhile, the organization also claims to have “won” mandates for a $15 per hour minimum wage in multiple jurisdiction across the U.S. including New York and California.
The Fight for $15 started with just a few hundred fast food workers in New York City, striking for $15 an hour and union rights.
Today, we’re an international movement in over 300 cities on six continents of fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees – and underpaid workers everywhere.
For too long, McDonald’s and low-wage employers have made billions of dollars in profit and pushed off costs onto taxpayers, while leaving people like us – the people who do the real work – to struggle to survive.
That’s why we strike.
When we first took the streets, the skeptics called us dreamers – said a $15 wage was “unwinnable.”
We won $15 an hour across New York State and California.
We won $15 in Seattle, and huge raises in cities from Portland to Chicago.
We won $15 for Pennsylvania nursing home workers and all hospital employees at UPMC – Pennsylvania’s largest private employer.
And we won’t stop fighting until we turn every McJob into a REAL job.
As we’ve pointed out before, sometimes defining a “victory” can be difficult…this doesn’t look like a “win” to us:
And neither does this:
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