Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't fall for SEIU

Some of you may have received an email today from MoveOn. I urge you not to donate to this particular campaign, and to go to MoveOn's suggestion form and warn them, as I did:

Be very, very careful about SEIU. I'm a strong progressive myself, very pro-union philosophically, but these people give unions a bad name. They lie, distort, send subversive emails and letters full of half-truths or outright untruths. Creating a strong union movement must not depend on such Bush-like tactics!

I'm quite disappointed to see them showing up in a MoveOn email.

Watch out - they open you to what could be well-documented claims of fraud and deception. That is NOT something MoveOn needs!

Here's why I said that.

These people are weasels. Those of you who've been following Paul Levy's blog, as CEO of my hospital (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, aka BIDMC), and who perhaps have met him, know what kind of man he is: competent, compassionate, committed, honest. SEIU wants to unionize his hospital, and they've been claiming he's a slimy liar who uses manipulative tactics more appropriate to the Bush administration.

Here's a blog post from the other day about a packet they just sent to 500 affiliated doctors (who don't even work for the hospital!). The package suggests, among other things, that Levy is failing to honor the Jewish tradition of social justice.

Furthermore, SEIU is trying to prevent putting the issue to a secret ballot of the affected workers, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, and has even supported legislation to eliminate those elections. Note - NLRB elections were created specifically to prevent manipulative employers from blocking workers' free choice.

Paul advocated in an August 2006 post for a free exchange of views: "we will vigorously oppose any efforts to short-circuit the legitimate process by which employees of this hospital can consider, debate, and vote on this issue."

Several months later
he again advocated that the vote be by secret ballot. Last summer he spelled out specific tactics the union has used in other cities. One commenter said
The initial cause for unions was to avoid worker exploitation and unsafe working environments. I don’t see this happening at BIDMC. If a Hospital or business provides a good safe place to work with decent benefits and livable wages for all its employees than there is no need for union intervention. That being said I do feel there are still places of business that could use a union…Maybe the SEIU should be looking at Wal*Mart????"
I couldn't agree more. I wonder why on earth they're not doing that. Or, consider Nike, which in 2003 went to court to claim the right to lie about whether they'd cleaned up their sweatshops! They finally gave up, six months later, and agreed to donate $1.5M to a workers' rights group.

Paul's "pages from the playbook" post contains comments spanning three months, with back and forth between Levy and various attackers (and supporters). You can decide for yourself whether he's open and honest. Consider in particular the August 13 comment by an employee, which criticizes several things about life as a nurse at BIDMC - Paul published it unedited. This man is not a manipulator.

We need unions where there are rampant abuses, as with Nike and Wal-Mart. But SEIU does not give unions a good name.

I personally believe the Reagan administration did us all a great disservice when they started busting up unions, starting with PATCO... that's one reason the middle class is disappearing in the US, with grave consequences throughout the economy. But the solution is not to lie and go after great not-for-profit institutions. Shame on them - not only are they not attacking the problem, they're giving the solution a bad name in the process.

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