ZNet Book Interview: Labor’s Civil War in California
The NUHW Healthcare Workers’ Rebellion
Can you tell ZNet, please, what Labor’s Civil War in California: The NUHW Healthcare Workers’ Rebellion is about? What is it trying to communicate?
This book is about the conflict in California between SEIU and its former 150,000 member local, UHW-W, now the new union, NUHW.
It basically covers this conflict from its origins in 2007 to the Trusteeship in early 2009, but I’ve tried to give it an up-to-date tone.
It tells the story (a tragic tale really, given the state of organized labor and the conditions working people face) of SEIU’s decision to wreck UHW-W and then how it did this. And it tells about how the members and staff of UHW-W fought back. Members and volunteer organizers building a new union! It finds the roots of the conflict in SEIU’s strategies and tactics, in particular its corporate, collaborationist approach to collective bargaining and its authoritarian, top-down, organizational style.
Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
It is not meant to be an academic account; it is not neutral or objective in the academic sense. I strongly support NUHW. I want them to win. It will be accessible, I hope, to NUHW members and other healthcare workers, to UNITE HERE (their conflict with SEIU is discussed) as well as to other rank and file workers, activists, etc.
It is often a first hand-account though I have tried to document events, statements, etc., I attended most of the major events described, was in the Oakland headquarters sit-in and now know personally nearly all the NUHW leadership plus many dozens of members.
What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
My purpose has been quite simple – to expose SEIU’s role in this tragedy and to show how SEIU is leading us in exactly the wrong way, a way we don’t want to go.
And to support the members not just for their individual heroics but also because I believe they are headed in the way we want to go- a more democratic, more militant, more “progressive” unionism.
I hope it will be read by workers and will encourage both members and other fighters. I will be happy if it does this, encourages the members, tells their story from their point of view, and helps them to be successful.
One always wishes for more time for a project – but we wanted this out for the hundreds of representational elections coming in the spring and summer, I will be disappointed only if it fails to be read by these workers, or is not taken seriously by them – obviously one always wants as many readers as possible.