The Service Employees International Union, considered the most influential union in the nation, has notified the union that represents about 220 of its national field staff and organizers that 75 of them are being laid off. In return, the workers’ union, which goes by the somewhat postmodern name of the Union of Union Representatives, has filed unfair labor practices charges against SEIU with the National Labor Relations Board. The staff union’s leaders say that SEIU is engaging in the same kind of practices that some businesses use — laying off workers without proper notice, contracting out work to temp firms, banning union activities and reclassifying workers to reduce union numbers.
“It’s completely hypocritical,” said staff union President Malcolm Harris. “This is the union that’s been at the forefront of progressive issues, around ensuring that working people and working families are taken care of, but when it comes to the people that work for SEIU, they haven’t set the same standards.”
SEIU officials say the layoffs are part of a long-running plan to reallocate resources. Its national office will devote more of its resources to lobbying and communications in Washington to take advantage of Democrats’ ascendance. Most organizing would be left to local chapters, where officials say they have identified dozens of openings for the laid-off staff.
“This is not a financial issue,” said SEIU President Andy Stern. “We need to respond to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity our members created by helping elect President Obama.”
More specifically, why is the SEIU laying people off?:
Harris said his union’s understanding is that the layoffs are the result of budget troubles faced by SEIU, which, on top of the California dispute, spent $80 million during the 2008 election and is planning to spend tens of millions more to advocate on behalf of Obama’s health-care plan and card check.