On Day EFCA Is Introduced, Union Turmoil Made Public

Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:23pm

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

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