All posts by JuanAntonioUHW

SEIU: You Won’t Intimidate Organized Rank-and-File Union Members

In my years as an activist member with SEIU United Healthcare Workers – West I have been a part of many struggles for working people.  But in the last months we have been in a different kind of fight.  We have stood up to the arrogance of Andy Stern, Anna Burger and other SEIU International officers who, in an attempt to flex their muscles and stifle dissent, have chastened many rank-and-file members and our local, United Healthcare Workers – West with the threat of trusteeship.  But I will say now, organized union members will never be intimidated by anyone, International Union officers included.  We will stand up to anyone.

I saw this stifling of members’ voices at the SEIU Convention in Puerto Rico from the moment we entered the convention center, when our delegation was harassed and followed.  I saw this as the Convention voted to move me and other workers out of my union and into corrupt Local 6434, ignoring our right to decide where we belong.  The hundreds in Puerto Rico voted to move us 65,000 from California.  But we were not intimidated then.

UHW member Ella Raiford, protesting the Convention’s vote to force members out of UHW.

In response, we came out in force.  At our mass demonstration in Manhattan Beach, where we organized 6000 members to protest another sham hearing, I personally went up to Anna Burger and confronted her, telling her that we will not be swayed and demanded that Stern and Burger meet with our membership.  We aren’t furniture, we can’t be moved around on their whims.   We weren’t surprised when she said no to a meeting.  We stood strong in front of them, never scared.

My UHW brothers and sisters protesting the International’s plans to divide us in July.

We continued on to Madison, Wisconsin, where a group of us were determined to meet with SEIU International.  We continued in our demands for a meeting with Andy Stern, and to our surprise he agreed to meet us for a brief talk.  But he said very little to us, claiming that he couldn’t say anything without his lawyers.  Instead of our elected officers working for us, Andy and Anna wanted the lawyers to do their job, so they could wash their hands when we pressed them with questions.  When faced with dozens of informed, angry union members, maybe our International union officers were intimidated by us!


We confronted Andy Stern; me right after our meeting with him.

And most recently, I and fifty other UHW members occupied the SEIU International office in Alameda to demand answers from out-of-touch union officials who support taking away our voice.  We shouldn’t be afraid to confront them — they work for us!

Us confronting International officials at the SEIU Office in Oakland.

This is a movement of union members who have one goal: to keep our democratically run union, UHW, where we make decisions.  I and others in our union have confronted our bosses and won, through the power of organized union members.  We are not afraid to take on any fight, even against SEIU International officials.

JuanAntonio Molina

Proud UHW Member

In-Home Healthcare Provider

San Francisco, CA

Updated: Union Members are Not Pieces of Furniture

UPDATED – see this video coverage of our march into the SEIU International officials’ secret meeting.

Today, myself and 5,000 other UHW members from all over the state are in Manhattan Beach to protest. But we’re not protesting another corrupt boss. We’re protesting a process rigged by SEIU International officials designed to take away the voices of 65,000 long-term care workers in California.

What’s this all about? It’s about whether SEIU, our union, will stand on the principles of democracy and be governed by its members, or whether Washington D.C. union officials will force us into another union, against our wishes and against our vote. We are here to say clearly: we are not to be moved around like pieces of furniture. We won’t be forced out of our union against our will.

In the past, we have been critical of SEIU leaders in D.C. meeting behind closed doors to cut deals that hurt healthcare workers. But now we’ve seen it in action.

Yesterday, top SEIU International officers were meeting here, behind closed doors, to plot to cut our union, UHW, in half by forcing nursing home and homecare workers (like me) away from hospital workers.

Why wasn’t our union invited to the meeting? Is it because we have already voted by 97% to stay in UHW? Is it because we oppose agreements like the California Nursing Home Alliance, which trades away worker rights and limits our ability to advocate for residents?

We wanted to find out. So a group of more than 20 of us rank-and-file members of UHW decided to let these leaders know we opposed their backroom dealing and that we were prepared to fight to stay united in UHW.

It happened very fast. We walked into their secret meeting, and we told them that we weren't going anywhere, that we had already voted for and chosen our union. Another coworker of mine said that it made no sense for us to move, since we had achieved much better contracts in UHW, where all kinds of healthcare workers are together, than the other union they want to move us to.

The union officials sat there stone-faced. I don’t know if they were shocked or if they didn’t care what we thought. The only one who said anything was Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer. She tried to shut me up, but I kept on going, addressing the rest of the room. I told them that we, the members, are the union. We are not for sale, we can't be given away like a piece of furniture.

In the end, once we’d made our message clear, we left. Today the hearing officially begins, but the backroom meeting leads us to believe the decision has already been written. But that won’t stop us.

We will continue this reform movement to make SEIU a democratic union. For us, our union is not just about wages, it’s not just about benefits, it’s about democracy.