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During the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) 2016 convention in Detroit, the union reportedly reached an “agreement” with “leaders” of the Fight for $15 movement. Under the agreement, “members” of Fight for $15 will now “vote” on whether to join the SEIU. As the quote marks suggest, there are a number of issues raised by these two sentences.
First, is it really news that an agreement was reached between the SEIU and leaders of Fight for $15? The entire Fight for $15 campaign is led, funded, staffed and organized by the SEIU. Essentially this means that the union reached an “agreement” with itself.
Second, Fight for $15 leaders are actually employed by the SEIU — in fact one of them was just elected as the union’s executive vice president. Thus is it at all surprising that these “leaders” reached an agreement with the organization that employs them?
Third, it is unclear just what Fight for $15 “members” the SEIU is talking about. On financial disclosure forms filed filed by the various regional worker organizing committees that the SEIU has created as the legal shells for Fight for $15, the groups uniformly report “zero” members. So who will actually make up the electorate?
Finally, it is anyone’s guess just how an election will be conducted. Since no one knows who the voters are, how to determine what number of votes would constitute a majority seems a bit of a challenge. And, since any election would take place outside of the National Labor Relations Board process, it is unlikely to be conducted by secret ballot, which suggests that the SEIU will simply gather a bunch of signature cards and declare the “vote” a success.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry says the election will create an “unorthodox 21st-century union.” But any individuals who actually vote to join the SEIU will pay no dues and will not be members in any meaningful sense of the word. In fact, the whole exercise appears to be more of a PR stunt than anything else. But with the type of PR the SEIU has bought during this whole campaign, one can expect to hear a lot more about it.