Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Andy Stern's Resignation

SEIU President Andy Stern is evidently resigning from his post.

This is big news in the labor world. Much to my surprise, a fair number of progressive writers are covering the issue.

Stern has been the most public and vocal labor leader over the past decade. He helped make SEIU the nation's largest union through his intensive organizing efforts. He took SEIU out of the AFL-CIO when frustrated by the lack of organizing focus by the mainline union. I don't necessarily agree that creating Change to Win was a very useful idea, but I respect the ideas behind it. Moreover, he led a massive union effort to get health care reform passed.

I am curious as to what this means for labor. Can Change to Win survive without Stern? I assume the next SEIU president will continue Stern's organizing emphasis. But will that president have the same leadership role within the labor movement. Tim Fernholz suggests that Anna Burger will take over and that Stern's stepping aside might be a good thing. Stern created a lot of animosity between  himself and other labor leaders, which helped lead to Change to Win in the first place. If Burger takes SEIU back into the AFL-CIO, one has to ask what the point of Change to Win was to begin with. I would have to see this as a black mark on Stern's legacy. Nonetheless, no one can question his leadership, both within the union movement and within American politics, his commitment to rejuvenating the American labor movement and his passion for helping working-class people live better and healthier lives.