SEIU’s Burger Responds to Purple Palace Coup: It’s all about me…

On Monday, we posted on the threat to Anna Burger’s throne at the SEIU.  Although Andy Stern has, in fact, endorsed Burger, in a letter penned by four of nine executive vice presidents to the SEIU executive board, the EVPs urged the backing of a fifth EVP, Mary Kay Henry.

In response, the Queen of Labor has penned her own letter (via Politico), asking for the support of the SEIU’s International Executive Board and hanging her hat on her seniority and political ties while laying out a vision for transforming the world.

In the long, four-page letter (download in PDF here), Burger walks her fellow SEIU bosses through her 38 years of experience, using “I” as opposed to the collective “we” (this is about her the union, after all).

During my 38 years in SEIU, I’ve held every position but one and now I’m asking for your support… to be the next International President.

Throughout those 38 years I’ve developed, implemented, led organizing, bargaining and political campaigns, stepping up, speaking out, and partnering with all of you.

I launched the national Beverly nursing home organizing campaign in Pa., and have led the Public Divisions growth work. I helped win the rights for child care, home and state workers to organize from Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas and North Carolina. I’m proud that we’ve turned our political program into an engine for growth.

I led the negotiations of the merger with 1199  and the restructuring of health care and the Property Services jurisdiction on the East Coast.

I helped to expand SEIU’s political reach by building our member‐to‐member capacity; worked across the labor movement, with progressive and political allies to partner and build the best grass roots political organization the progressive movement has ever seen.

As Secretary Treasurer I’ve worked with all of you to build strong Divisions, but at the same time, making sure that we continued to unite our strength in one powerful Union, with union wide programs and a political field operation second to none.

In SEIU, when issues were complicated, challenging or divisive I was asked to lead, whether  chairing the committees to find a forward or acting as an honest broker, bringing different perspectives together to create a common strategy and a united approach.

In 2008 when our union was being pulled apart by conflict over coordinated bargaining and bargaining for growth, I chaired the cross divisional committee that created unity a framework.

I’ve often been the officer responsible for getting the “job” done, and I am proud of what we’ve accomplished!

With all these accomplishments, it is shocking that Mary Kay Henry has even the audacity to question Ms. Burger’s qualifications to be the purple leader.  This is like a lowly mortal challenging the status of Wonder Woman herself!

The Queen even throws a nod to her departing “partner” Andy Stern…

Andy Stern’s brilliant leadership has challenged us to evaluate, imagine, decide and act. We take risks, try new strategies, galvanize our members, and work with unconventional partners.

For readers unfamiliar with labor union lingo, here’s a breakdown of the above SEIU-speak:

  • “take risks” = fighting with then-AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney for over a year on the future of the union movement
  • “try new strategies” = breaking up the AFL-CIO over an ambitious, but failed agenda
  • “galvanize our members” = there’s no union that can beat our astro-turfing
  • “work with unconventional partners” = Wal-Mart; SEIU’s bargain to organize strategy

Before turning back to the accomplishments under her (and Andy’s) watch…

We block bridges, build bridges and cross bridges. People listen to what we say and react to what we do because of the strength of our members.

We are the fastest growing union in North America, the best grass roots political movement in our country, a catalyst for change, and a beacon of hope for workers across the United States,Canada, Puerto Rico and around the world.

What we say and do matters.


…we are challenged as well.

The economy is a mess, our labor movement in decline, divided by ideology ‐ lacking strategy  and a commitment to each other.

Our public sector members and locals are a growing target of attacks as private sector density
slips away.

The right wing machine is well funded, pitting people against each other to block change and  destroy the President ‐‐ and too many Democrats lack the courage to stand up and act.

Our union conflicts with NUHW and external assault from HERE divide our attention and create
additional tension.

We are at a critical moment with the opportunity to transform our countries and rebalance the economy.

But we have immense opportunities as well.

We have the best President of our generation, at a time when SEIU is THE voice for workers and justice.

The next 7 years of an Obama Administration provide us the best opportunity of our lifetime to grow our movement, transform our economy, our nation and our world and we need a plan so we do not squander it.

What’s that?!? Seven more years of an Obama administration?

The other things Burger calls for in her “Seven-Point Program

First, I believe that we have the potential to not only achieve our goal of 500,000 new members by our 2012 convention, but also to set the stage for massive expansion to set our sights on ways to turnaround the decline of the private/private sector union density.


And finally we must face up to the challenge of rebuilding our ability to win traditional NLRB organizing campaigns, as well as exploring new models for organizing the private/private sector  where millions of workers, not dependent on shrinking public dollars live on poverty wages in SEIU strongholds.

Apparently, Burger realizes that the card-check provision of the job-destroying and hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act is a non-starter.

Second, we must challenge our President to be the best that he can be. As we build political power we can partner with the President and agitate and turn up the heat all at the same time. We won’t be a lap dog or a mad dog but we will be a bull dog for change constantly.

Third, our locals are bigger and more powerful than many other unions and have made a huge  difference in changing workers lives, but we face a challenge of speaking with one voice in our geography, industry and across our countries; we must maintain our focus but not silos, and  create synergy to win more together.

Fourth, a union that has the aspirations of ours must be fueled by the energy of members who want to step up and lead our union. We must complete our vision of Justice for all, and achieve our goal of 10% leaders and 50% active.

Fifth, as we expand and grow as a labor movement and a social movement, we are challenged by relationships with other unions, political parties and progressive partners. We must come to grips with how to decide when to act on our own, when we build consensus, and what our choices mean to our ability to win for ordinary people.

We must know when to make peace and when to stand up for what is right. I believe we must take advantage of this moment of change and bring an end to the attacks from HERE and continue to act decisively to make sure NUHW is never a threat to building one Health Care Union

Sixth, immigrants not only want an end to the raids, but also deserve to come out of  the shadows with a pathway to citizenship. We must show the same determination as we did in health care to lead the country to live up to its ideals.

Seventh, I believe that it’s time again for SEIU to start the process to decide on our long term future direction. We must be cognizant of both the strength of our union and the dire circumstances of our movement, and prepare to evaluate, imagine, and decide once again how workers in our countries can have their dreams come true, and how the next generation of leaders emerges to take responsibility and build the movement for tomorrow.

So, in other words, Burger’s agenda sounds a little bit lot like Stern’s…..And, it only took four long pages to spell it out.

And back to being “all about her”…

I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this union. Growing up in Levittown, Pennsylvania I was taught to reach for the stars, but this star was never in my wildest imagination.

I promise you that I will always keep the members in my heart and my head.

Spoken like a true queen.

Oh, by the way, all you little people can read the whole thing here (in PDF).

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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