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SEIU elects health-care organizer Henry as president

By Alec MacGillis
The Service Employees International Union, the country's fastest-growing and most politically influential union, on Saturday elected as its new leader a veteran health-care organizer who signaled that she would carry on the legacy of retiring leader Andrew L. Stern while also trying to repair some of the rifts that he created within the labor movement.

The union's 72-member executive board elected as the new president Mary Kay Henry, who grew up in a family of 10 children in the Detroit suburbs and worked her way up through the union's ranks over the past two decades, most recently serving as head of the union's health-care division. Many had expected the presidency to go to Stern's longtime lieutenant, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. But Henry's challenge drew a rush of support from other national officials and key locals around the country, forcing Burger to concede the race.

The rejection of Stern's anointed successor has led some labor observers to wonder whether there was a desire in the 1.8 million-member union to take it in a sharply different direction, possibly by scaling back the union's heavy political involvement to focus more on traditional organizing. But in a conference call with reporters Saturday, Henry said she intends to redouble the union's organizing efforts -- by, for instance, launching a $4 million "innovation fund" for private-sector organizing -- while keeping up its efforts in trying to elect labor-friendly politicians.

"I feel incredibly invigorated to build on the success of our union under Andy ... and take SEIU to the next level where we can make an even bigger difference," she said.

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Henry hinted that she would take a different tack than Stern in one area, SEIU's fraught relationship with other unions. The highly ambitious and independent-minded Stern has had a polarizing effect on the labor movement. In 2005, he led SEIU and several other major unions out of the AFL-CIO, declaring it moribund, but his new federation, Change to Win, has fallen short of expectations. More recently, Stern has riled many others in the movement with his decision to try to capitalize on the nasty break-up of UNITE, the garment-workers union, and HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union.

Henry said that one of her three main goals, alongside organizing and political involvement, would be "restoring our relationships with the labor movement."

"We can't go it alone," she said. "We are committed to functioning as full partners within the American labor movement."

But even this shift might have limits. Henry said there have been "no discussions" about SEIU's returning to the AFL-CIO, as several other unions in Change to Win are considering. She said the union was hoping to negotiate a settlement in the UNITE-HERE fight, but she made clear that she has every intention of continuing the union's battle with a large breakaway chapter in California that has cost SEIU heavily both in dollars and reputation within the labor movement.

Henry is SEIU's first female president and one of a handful of openly gay union leaders in the country. She also comes into the job with one very clear difference with her predecessor. Whereas Stern has been at the Obama White House more than three dozen times -- making him one of the most frequent visitors -- Henry said she had met Obama only once, at a labor event more than a year ago.

By Multiplatform Editor  |  May 8, 2010; 5:24 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  | Tags: Andy Stern, Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union, Trade union  
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Comments

cschotta1 and your ilk are a menace to society!

Posted by: hueylong | May 10, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

SEIU is as big a crook as ACORN, in fact, they shared offices, finances, attorneys and game plans.

SEIU has committed crimes for the Democrats and provided thugs for the Progressives against the Tea Party participants.

SEIU needs to be brought up on charges against America.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 10, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

SEIU:

ACORN Redux.


Posted by: wmpowellfan | May 9, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

In my own personal opinion the entire labor movement in this country has been hi-jacked by big coporate business with their high powered campaign contrubtions to our politicans of both the rep's & the dem's have virtualy sold out the labor rights of the workers in this country to the coportae instrest to the point that justa bout no-one in the entire country has any workers rights within the workforce of this country any morewith regards to benefits, labor rights, within the workplace or overtime issues, or even the rights to contest a worngful termination within the workplace especially if you are a public employee an you attempt to highlight wrong doing an fraud by your employer as it pertains to fraud in regards to contracting issues thank you

Posted by: pbjbeach@yahoo.com | May 9, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

This is the WELFARE UNION full of low paid wage earners they want the Gov. to supply their benifets !! It's adleglly full of ILLEGAL ALIENS thats why so much money is spent on the Health Care Bill And AMNESTY for 20 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS ! THIS Union is ACORN REBORN !!!!

Posted by: catinhat83510496 | May 9, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

She better take it in a different direction! Andy has brought SEIU to the brink of bankruptcy. Now he'll have a chance to do the same for our Country as a member of the Administration's Deficit Reduction Commission.

It would be a joke if it weren't so frightening!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | May 9, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Unions are a menace to society!

Posted by: cschotta1
*********************************************
Shut up. Call your Mother.

Posted by: st50taw | May 9, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Dodd cont. His old man was the 1st Senator since Joe McCarthy in 1954 to be censured and only one of 6 people censured by the Senate in the 20th Century . The Acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.
The question remains : Why is Madoff in jail ? Why are leans put on the poor working taxpayers for their IRS debt ? Why was a guy who did so much for his country like Joe Louis , have to be hounded for the amount he owed after having been bilked dry by courrupt boxing handlers. Joe was humiliated and ended up as a greeter in Los Vegas. After having served his country and made millions for it with his appearance at Bond Drives. I only mention Joe, as an example of what one honest citizen is, and how another, a crooked politician named Dodd can be given preferential treatment, when he's the one who should be in Prison.

Posted by: puck-101 | May 9, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Dodd-cont. Over the life of the mortgage ,Dodd would realize a savings of $200 a month . In 1944 Dodd became 1/3 owner of a 10 acre estate , worth $160,000 on the island of Inishnee , Galway Bay . He worked this with a crooked stock trader as he did the trader a big political favor.
There were more of our sterling politicians involved with Countrywide , besides Dodd and Fwank . Sen. Kent Conrad ,chairmen of the Senate Budget Comm. got a VIP from Countryside, along with Donna Shalala ( Clinton Heavyweight ) Alphonso Jackson, Richard Holbrooke, and Jim Johnson. Conrad quickly mailed off a check for the value of the VIP favor to " Habitat for Humanity " Shalala , Jackson and Johnson just ducked and still duck. It cost Johnson the consideration for Vice President under Obama . But Dodd won't give anything up as he still contends he did nothing wrong

Posted by: puck-101 | May 9, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

What in Hell goes on in this country ? Do we keep rewarding extortion, and corruption in general ? Now , soon Cris ( The Artful ) Dodger will skate off with nary a broken fingernail, with enough corruptive loot under his belt than the Brinks Robbery afforded it's thieves. This crook with Brazen disreguard for the nation's Intelligence : " I'm no clairvoyant. There was no Red Flag to me we were getting some special treatment " This was after getting a VIP mortgage rates from Countrywide Financial for his homes in Conn. Washington which would save him $75,000 over the life of the mortgage . Then when it was proven he knew all along that he was getting VIP treatment he feigned an utterly wounded expression and an air of outrage. He got this VIP Treatment on orders from Angelo Mozilo Chairmen Founder of Countryside, who pocketed $142 Million as " Countrywide " was going into the tank. cont.

Posted by: puck-101 | May 9, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post. I got an error message the first time.

Posted by: Princey | May 9, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

I won't go into a history lesson but it is because of unions that many of today's workers get the benefits that they do. For instance a lunch break if you work for a certain number of hours. Such things do not come out of the kindness of the employer's heart.

The miners that were killed were not unionized so they didn't have the united power to demand safer working conditions.

It isn't bad guy v. good guy but it is about fair compensation for hard work.

Posted by: Princey | May 9, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Interesting that you should say that. I won't go into a history lesson but it is because of unions that today's workers get many of the benefits that they get. It isn't just out of the kindness of the employer's heart.

The miner's who were just killed unfortunately were not unionized and therefore didn't have the united power to push for safer working conditions. Loss of life was no big deal when it compared to big profit.

It is not about the employer is the bad guy and the worker is the good guy but it is about fair compensation for hard work.

Posted by: Princey | May 9, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Unions are a menace to society!

Posted by: cschotta1 | May 9, 2010 12:50 AM | Report abuse

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