...to actually listen to his own members. A coalition of SEIU locals in California started a campaign called "No Worker is Illegal" to confront the SEIU's position on immigration (see this article for a review of Andy Stern's book and his travels with Newt).
This is from an article at counterpunch by Labor Notes co-editor William Johnson (also, a more readable format at MRZine) about the response these members received:
Luckily, SEIU International President Andy Stern was in the San Francisco area promoting his new book, A Country That Works. Saucedo and a few allies attended one of Stern's readings and persuaded him to meet with them.
Saucedo remembers, "We explained to him that this was not just San Francisco, that [opposition to McCain-Kennedy] was a widespread sentiment. He gave us different responses, ranging from "Kennedy-McCain was the only viable bill" to "the SEIU membership is still pretty conservative on this issue."
"We told him that as a union, we should never be supporting anything that hurts workers -- like guest worker, employer sanctions."
According to Saucedo, Stern next sent out SEIU's head immigration policy person, Cuc Vu, to meet with the "No Worker is Illegal" folks. Says Saucedo, "We had a five hour meeting with her. She came with the Washington, D.C. lobbying perspective . . . made a lot of the same arguments as Stern."
SEIU's international office did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
Saucedo doesn't find Stern and Vu's arguments convincing. She notes that SEIU took a strong position against the war in Iraq even though there are certainly "sections of the union that were for the war. We want the same thing on immigration."
More than a fear of backlash, Local 790 member Brian Cruz thinks the primary reason the SEIU international is supporting guest worker is that "SEIU sees building partnerships with employers as the way to build the union.
"It's the way Andy Stern spells it out in his book. He calls it 'Team U.S.A., workers and corporations working hand in hand against competitors around the world.'"
Cruz notes that as recently as 1999, "SEIU was a big part of the push to support amnesty for all immigrant workers. When guest worker started coming out, [SEIU Vice President] Eliseo Medina came out against it.
"Now," Cruz continues, "Medina's calling guest worker 'a step in the right direction.'" Cruz believes that beneath the partnership strategy, "There's a lot of skepticism about the immigrant movement. The feeling is, they don't believe we can build a strong movement, so we'd better take the best the politicians have to offer."
Not much more needs to be said (although my guess is that Uncle has plenty to say...).