Family Feuds

The split of the AFL-CIO is a couple of years old, and goes way beyond Scaramento. But it goes a long way in illustrating some of the larger tensions in the labor movement. In 2005, the Service Employees International Union, led by Andy Stern, and the Teamsters Union and others opted to split from the AFL-CIO.

“What John Sweeney has been doing has not been working and it’s time to try something new,” said James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “We have been disappointed over the last 10 years that we have seen a decline in membership,” he said, referring to Sweeney’s decade-long tenure as president.

The rift reflects a fundamental divide over tactics. The Teamsters and SEIU say the AFL has been too focused on trying to court politicians, and playing to the mainstream Democratic Party. Stern has focused on grass-roots organizing, and building his union’s membership.

“We are not trying to divide the labor movement, we are trying to rebuild it,” Stern said at the time of the split.
In California, the service employees have been instrumental in embracing the agenda of undocumented workers, seeking to grown their membership by appealing to the growing Latino service workforce.

California Nurses Association and UNITE/HERE vs. Fabian Núñez

Fabian Núñez is a child of the labor movement. He cut his political teeth as the political director of the powerful LA County Labor Fed, under the leadership of Miguel Contreras. Contreras even helped put together support for a Núñez speakership.

But as speaker, Núñez has found, it’s impossible to keep everybody happy. His support of four new gaming compacts has earned him the ire of Jack Gribbon and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union.

The feud has gone public, through e-mail flame wars between Gribbon and Núñez spokesman Steve Maviglio. Maviglio blasted Gribbon in a blog post for hiring Republican Lawyer Tom Hiltachk (which Gribbon later denied). Gribbon responded in kind, calling Maviglio a “butt boy” and a “nasty little sh*t.”

And the speaker’s hunting for a health care compromise has alienated the outspoken California Nurses Association, which has determined that the only solution to the state’s health care crisis is a single-payer health care system. Before the Speaker’s health care bill was heard this week, CNA sent out a release claiming “Californians are being misled on the provisions of the health reform proposals by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.”

California Teachers Association vs. California Federation of Teachers

The state’s two largest labor unions have very different ideas about how to best fund community colleges. The California Federation of Teachers is leading the charge for Proposition 92, which would lower community college fees and guarantee the schools get their share of Propostion 98 funds.

The California Teachers Association is leading the fight against the measure, joining forces with some traditional foes, like the California Chamber of Commerce, to oppose Proposition 92.

“There are better ways to improve our community colleges without all the problems created by Proposition 92,” reads the ballot arguments against the measure, co-authored by CTA president David Sanchez.  “It would cause more problems than it would ever solve.”

And apparently, has created a real rift between the state’s top teachers lobbies.

–Anthony York

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