K Street Files: Union Wars

Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:28pm

A leading union for hotel and restaurant workers on Tuesday accused the Service Employees International Union of trying to steal its members by using a negative direct-mail campaign to sow discontent within its ranks.

[IMGCAP(1)]In a mass e-mail sent to organized labor leaders, Unite Here Political Director Tom Snyder accused SEIU President Andy Stern of attempting to sabotage his group “in order to absorb the splinter group and organize in the hotel, gaming and food service industries.—

“SEIU officers … have attended membership meetings and encouraged our members to secede from UNITE HERE,— Snyder wrote in his e-mail, which was obtained by Roll Call.

Snyder also accused former AFL-CIO Political Director Steve Rosenthal of conducting “a despicable communications program of intimidation into our members’ homes,— attaching samples in his e-mail of direct mailings that Rosenthal allegedly designed for the SEIU.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette denied that her group had anything to do with the mailings, claiming instead that the responsibility lies with a dissident faction within Unite Here, which has been wracked by internal turmoil over the past few months.

“We haven’t produced any mailings,— she said. “There’s a movement within Unite Here that is producing this.—

Superimposed over a picture of a large, rare steak, one of the mail pieces reads: “While workers struggle, your union’s international vice president Karl Lechow charged the union $143,167 for business meals.’ The Unite Here merger has failed. Here’s one reason why.—

Rosenthal is the former chief executive officer of America Coming Together, an outside political group that attempted to boost the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). He did not return a message left Tuesday at his consulting firm, the Organizing Group.

Unite Here and SEIU are both part of Change to Win, a group that spun off from the AFL-CIO in 2005 and now represents 6 million workers. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win currently are in talks to re-merge, a strategic move that union leaders say is necessary as lawmakers consider the Employee Free Choice Act, contentious legislation introduced in the House this week that is expected to draw one of the bloodiest lobbying fights this Congress.

In light of the EFCA — commonly known as “card check— — Snyder in his e-mail on Tuesday warned union

officials that “opponents of EFCA and the labor agenda will make good use of this bullying display.—

Craigslist Comes to Washington. After almost single-handedly dismantling the newspaper industry, online advertising guru Craig Newmark is setting his sights on K Street.

The founder of the free online advertiser Craigslist.org increasingly is lending his notoriety to a variety of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy groups, including the Consumers Union, Change Congress, the Sunlight Foundation and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Newmark is a board member of the Sunlight Foundation and the Consumers Union.

In an interview on Tuesday, the self-described nerd admitted that “when it comes to Washington culture, I’m in a little over my head— and said it could be a little while before he begins knocking on lawmakers’ doors alone.

“I’m painfully aware of my ignorance,— he said. “I find people that know what they’re doing and help them out.—

During his ongoing introduction to downtown, Newmark also said he’s had a change of heart when it comes to the much-maligned lobbying profession, which he said he now realizes “has been tainted by the actions of a few bad actors.—

“Now that I’ve talked to a lot of lobbyists, I think that most are just trying to get a fair shake for their clients,— he said. “There are a lot of lobbyists trying to do good work for people.—

Next up for Newmark? In April, he is expected to attend in town an Aspen Institute conference on the Middle East.

Razzle-Dazzle Ya. In Washington, everyone wants to be a star, and now the Motion Picture Association of America is here to show you how. The association will hold its second biennial industry summit, “The Business of Show Business: American Creativity at Work,— in Washington, D.C., next month for lawmakers, local film students and others interested in the creative industries.

The invitation-only summit will bring together top executives from major motion-picture studios, including Fox Filmed Entertainment, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios to discuss the economic impact of the industry, from the number of jobs created to the diversity of the workers who fill those roles, and also “go behind the scenes with the people who help create movie magic.—

Females on the Hill, no word yet if Brad Pitt will attend.

K Street Moves. Toyota Motor North America has hired Thomas J. Lehner to oversee the company’s federal and state government affairs and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., as vice president of government and industry affairs. Lehner most recently served as director of public policy for the Business Roundtable.

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