Stern's Handpicked Replacement Not as Strong as Advertised

-By Warner Todd Huston

Not long ago, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern abruptly resigned from his powerful position and we still aren’t sure why. But as he headed for the exit, Stern recommended his long-time confidante and current SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, Anna Burger, to be his replacement. But shockingly it is beginning to look as if Stern’s druthers will not win the day.

Andy Stern has been one of the most powerful union leaders in America for a long time. Along with Burger, Stern was one of the most frequent visitors to Barack Obama’s White House, he’s spent years gobbling up smaller unions and placing them under the thumb of the SEIU with the result that his union has grown exponentially, and he’s succeeded in insinuating his union into the bowels of just about every state and local government office in the country. He’s wielded the power of multi-million dollar political campaign donation funds and has been involved at the highest level in U.S. labor policy. He was even named to Barack Obama’s Deficit Reduction Commission tasked with finding out ways to restructure federal budgeting.

I have my suspicions as to why he’s so suddenly stepped down (I spoke about those suspicions here) but what is beyond doubt is that Andy Stern has held in his hands an awful lot of power as the head of the SEIU. So it is a bit shocking to learn that his handpicked replacement might not be the shoo-in that might otherwise have been imagined.

Ben Smith is even reporting that Anna Burger has already lost her bid to succeed Stern as President of the SEIU. No confirmation from the union has been forthcoming, so I can’t say whether it’s true or not, but even the rumor that Burger might lose the spot is interesting to say the least.

In Burger’s place might be current Executive Vice-President of the SEIU Mary Kay Henry. Her pick is also an interesting thing in that it is widely thought that she might reverse Andy Stern’s top down style of union leadership and return more power back to the union locals thereby diluting some of the overt power that the SEIU has had in Washington. At least those are the expectations of some important inside sources according to news reports.

As to Burger, a recent story had it that should she have come to the president’s chair, reconciliation between several of the large factions currently feuding with the main office in D.C. could not occur. That is not a ringing endorsement, for sure.

Whatever the case, the very fact that the elevation of anyone other than Andy Stern’s handpicked candidate bespeaks of how quickly Sten’s power has waned. If he was as strong as he thought he was one would think that there’d be no discussion at all about who should replace him once he made his desires known.

It will be interesting to watch this play out, for sure.

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Tags: Andy Stern, Obama, SEIU, Unions

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