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Anna Burger to leave SEIU, Change to Win

Anna Burger, one of the most powerful and lasting figures in the organized labor movement, will step aside from her current posts as secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union and chairwoman of the labor collective Change to Win to pursue an effort to build an long-term progressive outside organization.

"I love SEIU but it's time for me to find my new path forward," Burger wrote in a letter sent to her friends and colleagues today and obtained by the Fix.

Burger plans to remain on as a consultant to SEIU as she seeks to begin organizing a broader, sustainable liberal outside infrastructure that can exist through and beyond elections. Burger is currently the vice chair of the Democracy Alliance, a group of well-heeled Democratic donors, and has close ties to wealthy philanthropist George Soros who has given millions of dollars to liberal causes in recent years.

Burger will be replaced as chair of Change to Win, a renegade group of unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO in 2005, by United Food and Commercial Workers president Joe Hansen, according to Politico's Ben Smith.

Burger's departure comes several months after she was defeated by Mary Kay Henry in a race to succeed SEIU president Andy Stern. Burger was Stern's hand-picked replacement and was widely assumed to be the next leader of the massive labor organization but was upset by Henry.

Sources close to SEIU said that Henry was beginning to put her preferred people into place -- including Gerry Hudson to run the political operation -- and those personnel moves had made things tense with Burger still there.

It remains to be seen whether Burger can succeed in her effort to build an outside political machinery for liberals. The three-headed group -- America Coming Together, Media Fund and America Votes -- constructed in the run-up to the 2004 election crumbled in the aftermath of Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) defeat. America Votes remains an active player in politics though the other two organizations no longer exist.

The Democracy Alliance was formed to standardize the way that progressive groups received funding and to avoid overlap and while there have been successes in that arena -- Catalist, the voter database, and Atlas, a detailed mapping of the political architecture of swing states, to name two -- there has been no overarching structure built to date.

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 11, 2010; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party  
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