Downsize: Big Labor Shedding Members and Staff in Trump’s Shadow
By Olivia Grady
On December 14, 2016, Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), announced in an internal memo that she was going to reduce the union’s budget by 30 percent.
The reason given was that Republicans were going to control all three branches of government:
“Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry wrote in an internal memo dated Dec. 14. “These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.” After citing the need to “dramatically re-think” how to implement the union’s strategy, Henry’s all-staff letter announces that SEIU “must plan for a 30% reduction” in the international union's budget by Jan. 1, 2018, including a 10 percent cut effective at the start of 2017.
Successful Right-to-Work efforts probably didn’t help the union as well.
The SEIU is the second largest union in America and represents almost 2 million government, health care and service workers, including home care workers, janitors and local government employees. It had an annual budget of $300 million.
The SEIU is very involved politically. In 2016, it spent over $31 million. None of the money went to Republicans. In addition, it has been very active in the “Fight for $15.”
In addition to the SEIU, the AFL-CIO just announced on February 27, 2017 that it was making changes to its organization, specifically dismissing workers:
As Bloomberg‘s Josh Eidelson reports, “The AFL-CIO is dismissing dozens of staff members as part of a restructuring amid continuing declines in union membership and fresh political threats to labor rights.”
The union, however, had a different explanation for its cuts:
“We will have to end support for some programs that don’t go to our core priorities,” said spokesman Josh Goldstein, “This is about reimagining and realigning our core priorities to best serve our affiliates.”
The AFL-CIO is made up of 55 unions, which represent 12.5 million workers. Its affiliated unions include national nurses united, UNITE HERE, United Steelworkers and others.
Like the SEIU, the AFL-CIO spent a large amount of money on the 2016 campaign, but at least, they gave some to Republicans. The AFL-CIO spent over $16 million this past year on campaigns.
It appears that Big Labor’s power is slowly eroding due to in large part Right-to-Work. When workers have a choice of whether to join a union or not, the union has to actually provide a service to encourage workers to join, just like other organizations.
It’s time to stop giving labor unions a free ride and allow them to become useful organizations for their workers in this modern era.