According to a source in one of Washington's largest SEIU locals, America's most influential union has a new leader, Mary Kay Henry, and she isn't retiring president Andy Stern's top choice.
Two weeks ago Stern shocked the political and labor world by announcing his resignation, at the relatively young age of fifty-nine. As he stepped down, Stern attempted to pass his position on to Anna Burger, leader of the labor federation Change To Win (CtW). Burger and Stern had been partnered since the 1970s, and they shared the inside-the-beltway contacts that made SEIU a political powerhouse.
But Stern’s reign had been controversial, despite the union’s growth under his leadership. His top down leadership style alienated some within the union, and in recent years SEIU became involved in battles with other unions that further alienated the leadership from the rest of the labor movement.
Burger inherited Stern’s controversies, but she couldn’t claim the loyalties that his charismatic leadership commanded. So Henry announced her candidacy, and promised to commit the union to organizing new workers, while reconciling with the rest of the movement. Burger, meanwhile, campaigned on her DC contacts and Beltway influence. But the political pitch didn’t work. Henry rallied the support of a majority of the union’s executive vice presidents, and has now received enough votes on the executive board to attain the presidency.
But the exact date of the vote is yet to be announced. Stern will have to officially retire, and then the vote must be held within 30 days of his announcement.
But if Henry’s victory really is assured, SEIU will soon be moving in a new direction.