The fight over who will succeed SEIU’s Andy Stern is heating up and come out into the open.
With “retiring” Andy Stern refusing to endorse a successor and Anna Burger not the most popular queen be in the purple house that Andy built, the generals are picking sides.
Four of the nine executive vice presidents have penned a letter backing Mary Kay Henry over the Queen of Labor Anna Burger [bold emphasis in original]. [As Mary Kay Henry is also an EVP, this would give her a majority of EVPs in her camp.]
Although as Politico’s Ben Smith notes:
The letter gives Henry’s supporters — if Henry herself is included — a majority of senior SEIU leaders, though the decisive weight on the executive board is in the hands of the presidents of large super-locals in New York, Chicago, California, and elsewhere, who will cast weighted votes on succession. [Emphasis added.]
While the letter doesn’t mention Burger by name, its unwritten words (in yellow highlight) are unmistakably directed at her.
April 17, 2010
TO: SEIU International Executive Board
FROM: International Executive Vice Presidents Gerry Hudson, Eliseo Medina, Dave Regan, Tom Woodruff
SUBJECT: The Future of SEIU
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The announcement of Andy Stern’s pending retirement has left us all with a great sense of sadness. It’s hard to imagine the future of SEIU without Andy at the helm, inspiring us with his energy, challenging us to be innovative and creative, and leading us with uncommon and unwavering courage.
Andy’s departure will leave a void no one person can fill. We believe that leading our union through the challenges ahead must be a team effort. We will need to draw from the collective talents and strengths of all of our leaders to create the unified vision and strategy to move forward.
That’s why we have come to the conclusion that Mary Kay Henry is the best person to serve as Andy’s successor at this time.
Mary Kay’s greatest strength is her ability to build consensus and create a highly-effective team around shared goals and responsibilities. Mary Kay is the type of leader who motivates rather than demands, who knows when to delegate and when to take charge, and who always puts the best interests of members first. She respects the diversity of talent, opinions, and causes that have made SEIU the most effective champion of social justice in North America. As president of SEIU, Mary Kay will unite our union — from top to bottom and across divisions — around our mission to build a stronger voice for members and a stronger movement for all workers.
We want you to know that we did not come to this decision lightly. We all want the transition to be as seamless as possible, without conflict or controversies that will distract us from achieving our goals. We are convinced that Mary Kay is the one who can bring us all together during this period of change. Mary Kay is in a position to carry on the best of our union’s traditions, as well as create a bridge to a new generation of leadership and tackle the new challenges we face today.
Many of you have expressed the need to return to organizing as our top priority — to rebuild our organizing capacity and to refocus our political strength on efforts to grow a stronger union and win for workers. We’ve also heard many of you say it’s time to restore our relationships with the rest of the union movement and our progressive allies. We believe Mary Kay is best suited to lead on both of these fronts.
When it comes to organizing, no one has a stronger commitment than Mary Kay. Her organizing experience spans over decades, from making house calls to hospital workers in Michigan to leading a statewide healthcare industry strategy in California. She was on the front lines of the Justice for Janitors campaign, has stood up for public employees in the southwest and across the nation, and has always been a relentless advocate for making organizing our number one priority. She understands that our political strength comes from our two million members, not individual union leaders, and we must use our political influence to build a stronger voice and better life for our members.
At the same time, as the new president of SEIU, Mary Kay would have a unique opportunity to re-establish SEIU as an important partner in the labor and progressive community. She is well-respected both inside and outside of SEIU and has an extraordinary talent for building coalitions and holding them together.
This is a critical moment for our union. We are committed to doing what’s best for SEIU and for all of our members throughout North America. Having worked with Mary Kay for decades, we’re confident that we have made the right decision. If you have questions or want to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to give any one of us a call.
Again, while Burger is not mentioned by name, the letter is chalk full of silent disapproval that we’re certain the Queen of Labor won’t take lightly or lying down.
Stay tuned, as the fur should be flying soon.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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