Labor Notes supporters are no strangers to heated debate—and the SEIU International is not the first union to protest at our conference. During the 1980s, for example, we saw opponents of the New Directions Movement inside the United Auto Workers put up picket lines outside our conference hotel and had BLAST—the Brotherhood of Loyal Americans and Strong Teamsters—try to intimidate Teamster reformers attending our events.
People are going to disagree and that is fine. There is no idea that can’t be discussed at a Labor Notes conference. We welcome debate on any and all issues facing the labor movement, including the heated dispute between the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) and the leaders of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) over the best way to build power for health care workers. But that debate must take place with respect and free from intimidation. Despite being welcomed to the conference earlier in the day—and given space to debate supporters of the CNA/NNOC about neutrality organizing agreements—SEIU staff and members shouted down speakers at workshops and panels throughout the event.
At our Saturday night banquet hundreds of SEIU protesters stormed into our conference and confronted our volunteers and supporters. In 29 years we have never had a group of protesters attack our conference or the brothers and sisters who attend it. Violence has no place within our labor movement, and we call on the national leadership of SEIU, including President Andy Stern, to repudiate it. - Labor Notes Staff
SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION ATTACKS LABOR GATHERING— CONFERENCE-GOERS ASSAULTED
Dearborn, MI—The Service Employees International Union turned their dispute with the California Nurses Association violent by attacking a labor conference April 12, injuring several and sending an American Axle striker to the hospital.
A recently retired member of United Auto Workers Local 235, Dianne Feeley, suffered a head wound after being knocked to the ground by SEIU International staff and local members. Other conference-goers—members of the Teamsters, UAW, UNITE HERE, International Longshoremen’s Association, and SEIU itself—were punched, kicked, shoved, and pushed to the floor. Dearborn police responded and evicted the three bus loads of SEIU International staff and members of local and regional health care unions. No arrests were made.
The assault took place at the Labor Notes conference, a biennial gathering of 1,100 union members and leaders who met to discuss strategies to rebuild the labor movement.
David Cohen, an international representative of the United Electrical Workers, asked protesters why they came. He said one responded, “they told us just to get on the bus.” The protesters included several members with young children, who had to be ushered away when SEIU tried to force their way into the conference banquet hall. Protesters were targeting Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the AFL-CIO-affiliated CNA. DeMoro was scheduled to speak but declined to appear after threats were made against her union’s leadership.
Despite being welcomed to the conference earlier in the day—and given space to debate supporters of the CNA and the National Nurses Organizing Committee about neutrality organizing agreements—SEIU international and regional staff shouted down speakers at workshops and panels throughout the event.
“Labor Notes has always been a space for open debate, but when a union decides to engage in violence against their brothers and sisters, we draw a line,” said Mark Brenner, director of Labor Notes. “Violence within the labor movement is unacceptable and we call on the national leadership of SEIU, including President Andy Stern, to repudiate it.”
For more information, contact Chris Kutalik 313-378-2588 or Mischa Gaus 773-627-3205 http://labornotes.org/