FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

SEIU Heavy on the Ropes: Trouble Makers Gather in Chicago

Dave Regan, no relation to our past now departed Governor, is at it again. Regan is President of Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) California local United Healthcare Workers -West (UHW); he also a member of the SEIU’s Executive Board, compensation $200,000+. This weekend as 1500, probably more, rank-and-file “troublemakers” gather in Chicago, some will be remember the 2008 attempt (unsuccessfully) to storm the Labor Notes Conference that spring in Dearborn, MI, an attack by 300 SEIU staff, led by our Regan, then Director of SEIU’s unit in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Best forgotten, perhaps. But here in California, Regan’s still at it, most recently he’s been charged with assault – the result of picket line militancy? Not exactly. According to CBS news, Regan faces charges for (allegedly, he denies it) breaking the arm of a summons server. Now, no one likes to be on the receiving end of a summons, but this poor messenger had the bad luck of being assigned to serving Regan at his home in upscale suburban Kensington in the Berkeley Hills. He also was reported (by CBS) “to have been aggressive and tried to intimidate the (police) officer” responding to the incident.

Regan, a graduate of the Cornell Institute of Industrial Relations, seems to relish such behavior. He’s reportedly known to drink to access, then look for a fight, friend or foe, it seems not to matter. More to the point, however, Regan was part of the team parachuted into California, also in 2008, to seize the dissident local, UHW, then a 150,000 member strong, militant, democratic union, the flagship of healthcare unionism in California. Under the direction of the then President of SEIU, Andy Stern, underlings Regan and Mary Kay Henry (now SEIU president), declared “World War III” on the local, set up a “war room” and, recalling the words of Lieutenant Calley proceeded to destroy the local “in order to save it.”

That they did; elected officers removed, assets seized, 5000 stewards fired, and all along the way a stream of tough boy talk from Regan, who was appointed the trusteed local’s new President. In Fresno, when home health care workers threatened to leave SEIU and join its challenger, the insurgent NUHW, SEIU responded by assigning nine hundred staff to the city, with the promise of “shock and awe” for the dissidents, and from “Bro.” Regan: “We gotta give them [NUHW] a butt whipping they will never forget,” and “we gotta go old school, put them in the ground and bury them,” and “put a stake through the heart of the NUHW.”

This is from a man who wants to lead health care workers, workers who work to help people.

Things have not gone well for Regan in California, though it is workers who must now pay the price. While Regan targets dissidents with violence and intimidation, he takes quite another approach to the employers. No amount of concession seems to satisfy the millionaire hospital execs; Regan has, for just one example, given away pension benefits covering more than 20,000 UHW members. Multiple partnerships have collapsed, so have “new paradigms” and grand schemes to “save the labor movement.” The summons server was attempting to deliver legal documents to Regan on behalf of the California Hospital Association, which is engaged in dueling lawsuits with Regan after Regan reportedly violated a “Gag” clause contained in a secret “partnership” deal with the Hospital Association. UHW’s initiative for a $15 an hour minimum wage in California was contested by another, nearly identical initiative – this one from? The state SEIU Council! As it’s said, this stuff can’t be made up. Now, the California legislature has adopted its own $15, California’s two SEIU initiatives left in the cold.

There is an ongoing membership revolt. Now the SEIU top leadership has turned against him. Last June Mary Kay Henry engineered (typically SEIU, from on high, no votes offered or taken) removing half of Regan’s members to a new SEIU local, this one led by a Southern California Henry loyalist. The once proud UHW is in fact a shadow of its former self.

So Dave Regan has no doubt good reason to be angry; this is, however, no reason to give Regan a pass, no reason for SEIU to get one either. There’s nothing quaint about it.

It seems that for Regan it’s good to be “old school” and “old school,” apparently includes violence and threats of violence, again, aimed at union dissidents. I have no idea what they taught Regan at Cornel but I do know that in, say, the years following World War II, it was rank-and-file workers who were most likely to be on the receiving end of violence. This was endemic in the gangster world of the International Longshoremen’s Union and the Teamsters, but it could also be found in more respectable quarters and there was never anything redeeming about it.

I recall in the sixties student support for striking coal miners in Hazard Kentucky, workers abandoned by the United Mine Workers, a dictatorship handed down by John L. Lewis to his lieutenant Tony Boyle. When Jock Yablonski, a dissident officer from Pennsylvania’s coalfields challenged all this, the response was deadly: on New Year’s Eve 1969, Yablonski, his wife and daughters murdered in their beds. His killers, lowlifes hired by Bolye’s henchmen in a Cleveland bar.

In the late sixties, there erupted the Black auto workers’ rebellion and a series of wildcat sit-downs followed. I remember in 1973 hearing the first-hand accounts of these United Auto Workers (UAW) dissidents, conditioned to expect company thugs and police violence, confounded when confronted in Detroit not by the aforementioned, but rather by 1000 armed UAW officers and loyalists.

The word Teamster back then seemed inevitably to be followed by the word “goon.” When United Parcel workers wildcatted in Cleveland in 1976, protesting a new contract, imposed from on high, first on the scene were their union officers in big cars filled with baseball bats. Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was founded in part in opposition to what was in places a reign of terror. Pete Camarata, TDU’s first delegate to a national Teamster Convention, was savagely beaten by goons outside the Las Vegas hall. Then, of course, there were the goons who roamed California’s valleys, hired thugs working with the Teamsters union and the growers in a sickening alliance against the UFW.

Happily, this is for the most part history now; the trouble makers at Labor Notes work openly in unions that are often a far cry from those of the fifties/sixties. There will be a good number of officers in attendance. Strikers will be celebrated, first of all the Chicago teachers who will be on the picket line April 1. There will be women and men; there will be contingents of Blacks, Latinos, LBGT. There will be a session where Labor for Bernie supporters will gather, hundreds of them from all corners of the country.

There will be no Dave Regan at the gates.

Unhappily, we’re still stuck with Regan out here, but not for long one suspects (though who knows what Mary Kay will have in store for us). Regan never recanted the Labor Notes episode, neither did SEIU; he in fact wrote that the SEIU had attacked the Dearborn conference because “they were outraged that Labor Notes would provide a public stage, legitimacy and awards to the leaders of an organization that celebrates denying healthcare workers the opportunity to have a union.” That organization? the California Nurses Association!

NUHW in the meantime thrives; it’s members will be well represented at Labor Notes where they can report on achievements as a democratic, militant, worker run union, committed to rejection of calls for concessions from a hospital industry awash in cash. It’s a union not afraid to go out on strike, a union that empowers members to speak up for patients. A union that recruits and grows, even as the labor movement nationally continues to stagnate or worse decline. A union that actually debated which candidate to support and then voted to support Bernie Sanders.

More articles by:

Cal Winslow is author of Labor’s Civil War in California,(PM Press) and an editor of Rebel Rank and File (Verso). His latest book is E.P. Thompson and the Making of the New Left (Monthly Review). He can be reached at cwinslow@mcn.org

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail