SEIU adjusting to anti-union political climate

The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEIU has released plans to push for greater unionization. Much of it seems to be in reaction to growing sentiment against public-sector unions:

The cities designated for the campaign have high concentrations of SEIU members and are in states where governors have proposed cutting benefits to public-sector workers amid worries over pension costs and broader budget woes. In some of the targeted states, lawmakers are considering “right to work” legislation that would eliminate laws making union membership mandatory whenever a union is formed at an employer. …

According to the memo, the SEIU wants to sign up workers in airports, hospitals, retail stores and other sectors. In what would be a significant shift, the memo discusses a strategy to “build to strikes where possible” to pressure employers during organizing and bargaining. The SEIU has generally moved away from strikes in recent years, finding them less effective than developing partnerships with management. Many public-sector workers are barred from striking, so the strike reference likely applies to private-sector workers.

The SEIU probably has two ways to respond to the growing pressure, and that they’re choosing both. The first is to push to protect public-sector employees, which caters to the employees who are the SEIU’s main source of membership. It seems like they’re doing this mostly by trying to reframe the debate away from state budget deficits and towards criticizing Wall Street (given the grassroots organizing its funding in New York). The second strategy, indicated above, is to increase private membership. This makes sense, given the growing discrepancy between public and private sector union membership. Given the amount of public anger currently directed both at state deficits and corporate pay, this second approach may be the SEIU’s more promising option.

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