Labor s Civil War in California
79 pages

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79 pages

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This book examines one of the most important labor conflicts in the United States today. In 2006 and 2007, disputes developed concerning the practice and direction of the 150,000 member healthcare workers union in California, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), with its “parent” organization, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

SEIU is the second largest union in the US, the fastest growing in recent years. It is a well-organized, well-financed organization, with an ambitious agenda. SEIU perspectives, while packaged as progressive, reject traditional union traditions and practices – union democracy and the idea of “class struggle” are replaced with class collaboration, and the union frequently “wheels and deals” directly with top management and politicians. In 2007 UHW rejected these perspectives and contested them within the union.

The SEIU international leadership retaliated by placing UHW in trusteeship, firing its officers, seizing its assets, and taking control of all union’s activities. UHW leaders and members responded by forming a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and challenging the SEIU in virtually every unionized site in the state.

This California conflict—SEIU vs. NUHW—is no local brawl; it is not about personalities, it is not about West Coast eccentricities. Its significance is not confined to the fortunes of just one particular union. SEIU’s attack, however regrettable, is not the first such—nor will it be the last. The truth is that labor has always been divided, comprised of many currents. The truth is also that there are rights and wrongs in labor, as elsewhere, and that these can expose fundamental divides—in this case two contesting souls in the workers’ movement. These are sharply on display today in this dispute—the one soul authoritarian, top-down, collaborationist, the other bottom-up, rank-and-file, class conscious.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 avril 2010
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781604863611
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0025€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

“One of the untold stories of the American labor movement over the past ten years has been the transformation of the once-progressive Service Employees International Union into a twenty-first-century version of business unionism, its leaders allied to corporate and neoliberal interests from both major political parties. Cal Winslow offers a unique glimpse into this heartbreaking tragedy and how rank-and-file workers are fighting back.”
—Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News columnist and co-host of Democracy Now!
“The civil war inside the SEIU is a tragic story. Yet, as Cal Winslow emphasizes in this urgent and dramatic account, it may contain the seeds of authentic renewal in the American labor movement.”
—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums
“NUHW’s fight for rank-and-file, militant, and democratic unionism against SEIU is the most important battle taking place in the labor movement today. Read this book to get the story and learn why a victory for NUHW would be victory for all workers.”
—Robert Brenner, author of The Economics of Global Turbulence
“The NUHW leadership and staff have fought valiantly over the years to win the highest standards in wages, benefits, and quality representation for workers both on the job, in the community and in the legislature. Having worked with them for many years and witnessed their courageous struggle, I honor their important movement to maintain the honesty and integrity of their democratic labor organization as the newly named NUHW. This book has a lot of valued lessons for all who yearn for justice for working people. I urge everyone to read it.”
—Dolores Huerta, first vice president emerita and co-founder, United Farm Workers
“The emergence of NUHW has been one of the most exciting recent developments in U.S. labor. From the ashes of the old, healthcare workers in California are trying to build something that’s new, different, and definitely worth fighting for. Cal Winslow’s account of their difficult struggle is moving and insightful—and maybe even a roadmap for others to follow.”
—Steve Early, labor activist and journalist, author of Embedded with Organized Labor
“The birth of NUHW signals a time of momentous transition not just for healthcare workers but for all workers in this country. Winslow tells the story. It is a wake-up call for everyone interested in the future of American labor.”
—Mike Casey, president, UNITE HERE Local 2 and president, San Francisco Labor Council
“If ever there was a need for a combative, principled workers’ movement, it’s now—which makes SEIU’s assault on UHW that more tragic and its telling that more crucial. Cal Winslow’s groundbreaking account of this epic battle for the soul of trade unionism is indispensible reading for those who believe an injury to one is an injury to all.”
—Sasha Lilley, author of Capital and Its Discontents
“The health care workers of California have a terrific tribune in Cal Winslow who has told their bottom-up struggle against the top-down bullying arrogance of the SEIU. Against its might, money, and size the health care workers merely bring solidarity, endurance, and their humble numbers. Moreover, the nurses in standing up for themselves against the Goliath have entered the national health care debate and thus stand up for all. Our health is in their tender, strong hands, so is our labor movement, and our democracy to come. Here is their story! Read it and stand with them shoulder-to-shoulder!”
—Peter Linebaugh, author of Magna Carta Manifesto
“As he provides readers with a front-row seat to the most important struggle inside the union movement, Cal Winslow shows us how union democracy equals worker power, and how rank-and-file volunteers (NUHW) can win against hundreds of so-called “warriors” (paid staff) and the leadership of a corporatist juggernaut called SEIU. Selfless acts of courage by these volunteers inspires solidarity between union and non-union sections of the U.S. working class to fight for democracy within unions and create a more democratic society overall.”
—Fernando Gapasin , union activist and labor educator, co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice
“Cal’s writing reminds us what’s at stake is larger than our struggle. If unions are truly to be for and about workers, we have to recreate what was lost. Our union improved workers’ lives by empowering us to lead the way. Thank you, Cal, for amplifying our voices and for clarifying why our efforts matter.”
—Amy Thigpen, M.S.W. Kaiser-Fremont medical social worker and fired steward and treasurer of the Medical Social Work Chapter, SEIU-UHW
“Strange tales from the gothic wing of the capitalist health industry, complete with vampires and leeches. In this instant classic of journalism from below, one of the pioneers of radical social history reports on remarkable signs of life in the morbid body of American labor.”
—Iain Boal, historian of the commons
“This little book tells a big story with huge implications—for working people and for democracy. Will the future be handed down from on high, or will it come from the bottom up? In this clear and forthright account of grim developments that have led to the birth of the fledgling NUHW union, Cal Winslow provides the very recent history of a tragic labor debacle that could foreshadow a reinvigorated labor movement from the grassroots. While documenting some morbid events, the message is well-grounded and transcendent: Don’t mourn, organize.”
—Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death
“There is no greater love in the labor movement than that of a truly member-driven union that accepts nothing less than a rock-solid, democratic foundation upon which to build. That, my sisters and brothers, is the pure definition of NUHW. And no one has captured its front-line struggle better then Cal Winslow. Thank you, my brother, for reporting it as it really happened and for sticking by us from the absolute very beginning.”
—Mary Ellen García, fired UHW steward and fired UHW executive board member, Kaiser-Haywood
“The question of democratic unionism is as pressing as ever. Winslow’s account of the struggles among healthcare workers strikes to the heart of what worker power can and should be. This is not simply a California story but a history of a struggle which drives a stake in the ground for social movement unionism. A compelling and important book.”
—Michael Watts, UC Berkeley
“Cal Winslow is steadfast in his support of rank-and-file struggle for democracy in our labor movement. His inspirational writings clearly portray the path on which he marches: on the front line alongside thousands of ordinary healthcare workers who collectively are achieving extraordinary, ‘old-school’ labor victories. The success of NUHW’s model of clean, member-driven unionism is a time-tested antidote against corporate greed and the poison of corporate-style unionism. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of our democracy.”
—Edward A. Sadlowski
“Highly informative. And the spirit is invigorating.”
—Noam Chomsky
For Samantha

“People find themselves in a society structured in determined ways (crucially, but not exclusively in productive relations), they experience exploitation (or the need to maintain power over those whom the exploit), they identify points of antagonistic interest, they commence to struggle around these issues and in the process of struggling they discover themselves as classes, they come to know this discovery as class consciousness. Class and class consciousness are always the last, not the first, stage in historical development.”
—E.P. Thompson, “Eighteenth-Century English Society”

This is the story of a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)—a union with great promise, one whose success is of vital importance. It is also, tragically, the story of the destruction of its predecessor, the California local United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), placed in trusteeship by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). UHW was widely seen as a “model” union, not just for California labor, but for workers everywhere. It was an outstanding example of union growth and power in an era of trade union stagnation and decline.
The story of this conflict is not always a pleasure to tell. UHW was attacked and wrecked not by the employers and corporate union-busters, not by security guards, not by right-wing vigilantes, and not by the state, but by its own national leadership. Still, it is a story that must be told; for the sake of California’s healthcare workers, for those who want to understand this bitter working class war in the West, and because of lessons it can teach us, lessons that will only help us if labor is again to move forward.
This conflict comes at a time when the labor movement in the U.S. private sector is literally engaged in a life-and-death struggle: in 2008, trade union membership in this sector had fallen to 7.6 percent—compared with the highpoint, 35 percent at the end of World War II. In 2008 there were a mere 15 major (involving 1,00

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