Although it was a mere formality, Mary Kay Henry’s ascendancy to the top of the union food chain became official today. The replacement for Andy Stern as the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was chosen because she is thought to be different. However, if anyone thought there might be some labor peace with the changing of the guard at the SEIU, they were mistaken. Mary Kay Henry may prove to be even more aggressive than her predecessor and, perhaps, less clumsy.
Though her style may be different, according to multiple accounts of a conference call with reporters on Saturday, Henry is vowing to keep some of the SEIU’s old battles very much alive, while ending others and starting some new ones:
Old Battles [via WaPo]:
Henry said there have been “no discussions” about SEIU’s returning to the AFL-CIO, as several other unions in Change to Win are considering. She said the union was hoping to negotiate a settlement in the UNITE-HERE fight, but she made clear that she has every intention of continuing the union’s battle with a large breakaway chapter in California that has cost SEIU heavily both in dollars and reputation within the labor movement.
Translation: The SEIU leadership knows Andy Stern & Co. were wrong in raiding UNITE-HERE’s members as that union was splitting up. However, there is no truce in the California Civil War with the former SEIU-UHW leaders.
New Battles [via BusinessWeek]:
Mary Kay Henry, elected today as president of the Service Employees International Union, pledged to spend $4 million organizing employees in businesses such as banks and supermarkets.
Henry said she has “a fire in her belly” for fighting management interference in labor organizing efforts. Henry said she will fight such efforts by “creating complaints” with the National Labor Relations Board.
The $4 million fund will be used to organize industries that have traditionally not had employee representation, Henry said. She cited banks, grocery stores, biotechnology companies and independent contractors as prospects, without mentioning specific firms. The union said it spends about $250 million annually to help local officials on organizing.
Some interesting points from the above:
Without clarification, it is difficult to know the context in which Henry referenced unionizing supermarkets. If she is intent on unionizing supermarkets through the SEIU, she is clearly stepping on the UFCW’s turf.
Her use of the term “creating complaints” (in quotes even) with the NLRB signifies the SEIU’s every intent to use the NLRB (with its recess appointed SEIU/NLRB member Craig Becker) to push the envelope by making up frivolous unfair labor practice charges against employers.
Yes, Mary Kay Henry may be bringing a new face to the SEIU. However, it appears that she will be every bit as aggressive in continuing the SEIU’s legacy as the Union of Purple People Eaters.
UPDATED: The video below is Mary Kay Henry’s “acceptance speech” and a call for SEIU to organize new workers:
“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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