Written by Julia A. Seymour
Business & Media Institute
Members of the self-proclaimed fastest-growing union in North America have started fights at town hall meetings, share office space with ACORN and spent over $60 million to elect President Barack Obama.
The left-wing, 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its president, Andy Stern, spent much of 2009 campaigning for health care reform that would include a government-run insurance plan, and for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier to unionize. Critics of EFCA say it would result in worker intimidation (not something that would bother SEIU, if its recent history is any guide).
Well-connected, Stern was the most frequent White House visitor in the first six months of Obama's presidency.
But ABC, NBC and CBS haven't reported any of those things. In fact, a search of Nexis transcripts for all of 2009 only turned up one story mentioning either SEIU or Andy Stern. That was an Aug. 20 story from Jake Tapper of ABC which identified Stern as "a close ally of the President's and the leader of a major union."
While the networks ignored it, The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal all reported Stern's frequent visits to the White House, and The Los Angeles Times has reported that the huge union spent $60 million to help Obama get elected. Both the Post and the New York Times also exposed the close alliance between SEIU and ACORN.
The latest controversy that should have gotten the networks attention began Nov. 16, when two conservative groups, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF), petitioned the United States Attorney to investigate Andy Stern for possible illegal lobbying activities. Their letter delivered to the U.S. Attorney said:
Specifically, it is important to determine whether those and related activities could constitute unregistered "lobbying" by Mr. Stern in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), 2 U.S.C. 1601, et seq. In fact, Mr. Stern was a registered lobbyist for SEIU until January of 2007 when he terminated his registration.
On Nov. 16, BigGovernment.com mentioned a possible motivation for Stern not registering as a lobbyist - Obama's opposition to working with lobbyists.
Brian Johnson wrote, "Registered lobbyists can't get stimulus money, can't be White House advisors and are not allowed access to meetings and summits. So how does one get around that? It's simple; you just don't register as a lobbyist. That's what Andy Stern did and it may come back to bite him."
ATR and AWF asserted in their letter and documentation that Stern has spent extensive time lobbying the White House and others, based on visitor logs released by the White House, Stern's own Twitter page and news reports.
So far that has gone unreported by the three major networks, which also ignored the story when the initial visitor logs were released Oct. 30 naming Stern as the top visitor with 22 White House visits in just six months.
SEIU Campaigns for Health Care, Card Check
The 2.1 million member union wants some very specific things from the administration it paid $60 million to elect, including health care "reform" that includes a government-run insurance program and individual mandates for insurance.
The Missoulian reported Stern's role in pushing a health care package after the union leader spoke in Billings, Mont. in August.
"SEIU is behind proposals being pushed by President Barack Obama and many Democratic leaders in Congress," wrote Mike Dennison of the Missoulian State Bureau.
Dennison also quoted Stern who said, "We've built our campaign since the beginning of March, to try to be ready for a pivotal moment like this, to try to get health care done this year."
Why would the union be so concerned with health care legislation? According to Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work Committee, there are provisions buried in the bills that would be a huge boon to unions like SEIU and "have devastating consequences" for health care and the overall economy.
Mix wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Senate bill would "open the door" to forced unionization and one House bill (H.R. 3200) would give Kathleen Sebelius plenty of authority to regulate health care workers under "public option." Not to mention giveaways for union health care plans, grants for training programs and exemptions for union plans.
A Washington Examiner column also gave the union credit for being the "most influential" union pushing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), known by its critics as "card check."
AWF pointed to the the competition between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers going on in California right now and said EFCA would allow intimidation by union reps to run rampant. AWF cited Journal reports of bullying and intimidation, particularly of immigrants.
That column quoted Ivan Osorio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute saying, "SEIU has perfected the strategy of the corporate campaign. This is a multi-faceted strategy that includes liberal pressure groups. It is meant to look spontaneous when in fact it is organized and planned."
Gladney Says He was Beaten by SEIU 'Thugs'
SEIU hasn't only been criticized for intimidation in California, some have claimed that the union members have been violent at town hall meetings during the August congressional recess.
One person who made that claim was Kenneth Gladney who said he was working as a vendor at a town hall meeting Aug. 6 in St. Louis, Mo. when he was punched in the face by someone in a group of people wearing purple t-shirts.
Gladney recounted the incident on BigGovernment.com saying the person shouted: "'What kind of nigger are you?!' Then, he grabbed my board, so I quickly grabbed it back, then the man punched me in the face and charged at me. I put my hands up to block the second blow from the large man, when two other people from that group grabbed me and threw me to the ground and started punching and kicking me. I was kicked in the head and in the back, legs and buttocks. Then a white woman ran up to me while I was on the ground and began kicking me in my head as well. A few people came to my rescue for which I am forever grateful."
Who were the people in purple t-shirts? According to Harris Himes who also attended that town hall and calls himself an eyewitness to the attack, they were "union thugs" whose shirts read "Organizing for America" on the back and "SEIU" on the front.
The union also has close ties to the disgraced left-wing activist group ACORN which got in hot water after video was released that appeared to show ACORN employees dispensing advice on running brothels and evading taxation. ACORN has also been implicated in a number of fraudulent voter registration schemes.
The New York Times and Washington Post both reported the SEIU/ACORN alliance in October. The Times called the union "one of ACORN's closest allies."
The Post went further saying, "SEIU and ACORN have long worked closely together, with the union paying the association more than $3.6 million in the past three years and sharing some office locations and leaders with the group."