In our latest feature article, Adam notes that Rod Blagojevich's removal from office could clear the way for some far-reaching -- and much-needed -- campaign finance restrictions in Illinois. On WTTW's Chicago Tonight yesterday, former state comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch echoed that sentiment. She highlighted the "window of opportunity" created by Blagojevich's departure and cited caps on campaign contributions as "essential." Watch it: Netsch's observation that "it can't just be legislators" pushing these sorts of reforms is very important. Grassroots and institutional support is going to be crucial. And to that point, I want to highlight the fact that SEIU Illinois (which sponsors this website) is itself pushing for strict restrictions on campaign contributions, which bodes well for the cause.
Oh Heavens Yes, Gracie! Josh, you are a dilly!
SEIU you will recall was mired deeply in Blago's Honey-Dipping Governorship and SEIU figures in Federal Prosecutor Fitzgerald's Criminal Complaint against the only Governor in Illinois History Impeached and Convicted by the Legislature.
Andy Stern's SEIU will be there, to quote Tom Joad from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to troll for and make new Blago. Make no mistake.
Here is a lovely compilation of SEIU/Blago Bedroom Eyes from the World Socialist Website -published by International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)them own selves!
In any event, Blagojevich and the SEIU have a lengthy and mutually beneficial relationship. The Wall Street Journal notes that the union “was an early and strong supporter of Mr. Blagojevich, backing him over several other candidates [for Illinois governor] in 2002.” As a condition of its support, the SEIU won a pledge from Blagojevich that once in office he would issue an executive order directing the state government to negotiate a union contract with home health-care workers.
Shortly after taking office, the new Illinois governor signed an order allowing as many as 20,000 such workers to unionize. They were signed up by the SEIU. Blagojevich also appointed Balanoff to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which approves hospital construction projects.
A second executive order, signed in February 2005, allowed collective bargaining for child-care workers. “The day after it received a letter from the governor’s office saying that a union election could be held, SEIU submitted 18,000 cards from workers it had signed up” (Wall Street Journal). The workers involved are highly exploited, suffering from low wages and a lack of benefits.
Officials of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) complained of the “special relationship” the SEIU had with Blagojevich. The latter union was the number one contributor to the governor’s re-election bid in 2006, donating more than $900,000, or some 5 percent of his total campaign fund.
The SEIU also has a close relationship with the president-elect. The union’s political action committee “spent at least $26 million on Mr. Obama’s behalf in the presidential campaign, making it by far the largest single PAC donor in the campaign” (New York Times).
The union, in the words of the Washington Post, has “become an omnipresent force in Democratic politics.”
An SEIU spokeswoman, Michelle Ringuette, defended the contributions. “Many unions make political donations to political candidates,” she told the Times, “in the interest of making sure we have elected officials who represent the interest of working families, men and women who get up and go to work every day.”
Neither Blagojevich nor Obama represent “working families,” although they may posture along those lines. Their policies defend the interests of big business and the corporate-financial aristocracy. The present corruption scandal provides a glimpse into the reality behind the rhetoric of Democratic Party politics: corrupt, well-heeled individuals pursuing their own selfish goals.
Moreover, the SEIU and the rest of the American union bureaucracy do not make use of their members’ dues money in the form of contributions to Democratic candidates to advance workers’ interests, but to safeguard their own incomes and privileges.
Stern and the SEIU have recently made a specialty of reaching contracts with governments and corporations that benefit themselves and the employers, at the expense of union members. (See Backroom deals by US service unions strip workers of rights)
The SEIU broke away from the sclerotic and discredited AFL-CIO promising a new brand of dynamic unionism, with a special emphasis on organizing the unorganized. As the WSWS noted last May: “However, this has nothing to do with defending or improving conditions, but involves colluding with employers to impose union membership on low-paid workers, who are denied the right to vote on union certification and in some cases don’t even realize they are joining a union.”
The union has set itself up as a kind of labor contractor, offering employers “labor peace” in exchange for the right to collect dues.
In its contract with California nursing home chains, reported the San Francisco Weekly, the SEIU agreed that workers would have no input regarding hours, vacations, pay, layoffs, staffing levels or any other matter concerning their jobs. The newspaper reported, “The employers may outsource work performed by union members, and speed up, reassign, or eliminate jobs at will. The employer may eliminate vacations, or any time off, as the employer sees fit.”
The SEIU went on to use this arrangement as a model for other “organizing” efforts in Washington and New Jersey.
At the time of his arrest Blagojevich was reportedly preparing to issue another executive order that would have allowed 1,200 workers who care for the developmentally disabled in Illinois to organize. Spokeswoman Ringuette told the Wall Street Journal that the SEIU “was aware of the executive order but didn’t know what role, if any, the union played in developing it.”