Union Turf War Leaves Workers Hanging

CHICAGO, IL March 30 – On March 21, the SEIU held a secret meeting and removed four militant women leaders from being stewards and chief stewards at Stroger (Cook County) Hospital. This is SEIU’s revenge for these women’s role in a recently failed organizing drive. The four stewards and chief stewards, Sonja Sanson, Bernadette Cornejo, Angie Ballard and Dimples Hughes-Williams, are going to need the active support of their co-workers to answer the County/SEIU attacks that are coming. More than anything, we need a stronger PLP at County.

For the past eight months, Cook County healthcare workers were caught in a turf war between the giant SEIU and the California Nurses Association’s (CNA) national organization, National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC). After two years of budget cuts that cost over 2,000 jobs and closed half the clinics that serve the more than one million uninsured workers and children here, SEIU and NNOC decided to spend millions raiding each other for a bigger share of a shrinking pie instead of organizing a massive strike of workers and patients against racist cutbacks. These pro-capitalist unions compete with each other just like the bosses do.

The most militant and class-conscious workers put their necks on the line for NNOC’s workers union, the Caregivers and Health Employees Union (CHEU). Despite their “progressive” reputation, NNOC maintains separate unions for nurses and workers. Based on the active support of these most militant rank and file leaders, the CHEU organizing drive became a mutiny against the SEIU leadership that had supported the budget cutters and sabotaged any fight back. Elections were scheduled in all four SEIU bargaining units.

On February 20, just days before the scheduled elections, CHEU pulled out, without any discussion with the workers involved. SEIU and CNA, who had been battling each other all over the country, formed an “alliance” to end the feud. While SEIU president Andy Stern and CNA president Rose Ann DeMoro were shaking hands and passing checks, the most militant County workers were left holding the bag. Some CHEU supporters had already been fired, and SEIU has no intention of fighting to bring them back.

As the economy continues to crumble, workers face more racist unemployment and cutbacks while the bosses get trillion-dollar bailouts. As workers have been forced to accept speed-up, wage-cuts, increases in our healthcare premiums and loss of pensions, the unions serve the bosses. We cannot expect anything different. No union can end the global crisis of capitalism. No contract can negotiate away the growing fascism, racist terror and war that the capitalists will need to force us to pay for their crisis. We are turning these attacks, and the growing anger of the workers, into a bigger base for PLP and more May Day marchers. Communist revolution is our answer to these attacks, and to the bosses’ crisis.

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