SPLITSVILLE FOR SEIU?….SEIU president Andy Stern talks to the LA Times today about the future of the AFL-CIO:
Question: How do you see things shaping up between now and the end of July?
Answer: I think we’re headed for a split in the labor movement. We have a philosophical difference. It’s not about John Wilhelm or John Sweeney. It’s not simply about organizing or politics. It’s about, do we share common ideas about how to grow stronger?….It’s hard to bridge philosophical differences. It’s easy to bridge financial differences.
I’m speaking from a position of profound ignorance here, but I’ve suspected for a long time that compromise isn’t the right answer between Stern’s forces and the old guard at the AFL-CIO. The problem is that the requirements of established unions with well-paid workers are so fundamentally different from the requirements of growing unions representing poorly paid workers that it’s never been clear to me that there’s any way to bridge the gap between them. Any compromise would just paper over those differences, not truly resolve them. At this point, splitting up is the right thing to do.
It’s true that there’s also plenty of old fashioned bad blood and personality clashes that are driving the animosity between Stern and Sweeney and their allies, but when push comes to shove my heart is with the folks trying to organize Wal-Mart or janitorial services, not with teachers fighting merit pay or auto workers trying to platinum plate an already gold-plated health plan.
In the end, my guess is that a split would be healthy. A bit of competition will be good for American labor.