An Open Letter to Andy Stern

by Reverend Raymond G. Decker, Ph.D. on July 30, 2009

(Ed Note: Reverend Decker is a former Associate Dean of the Loyola School of Law who has backed key SEIU organizing drives.)

I am a retired priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, who has been involved in social justice issues over the past 51 years. In 2004, I united with other ministers to stand with and advocate for the healthcare workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (a part of the St. Joseph Health System), when they made their decision to form a union with SEIU-UHW. I was proud to play a role in encouraging Bishop Daniel Walsh to make the Diocese of Santa Rosa the first diocese in the United States to make the guidelines of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Fair and Just Workplace” the official policy applying to all workers of the diocese. In recent months, I have been appalled by the outrageous actions of the SEIU in undermining the activities of UNITE HERE. I am deeply disappointed by the SEIU’s financing a disruptive attack on the leaders and members of UNITE HERE around the country. Such disruptive tactics only serve to undermine the unity of the labor movement of this country, which so many of us have worked so hard and diligently to establish and maintain.

I am dismayed by the reports (including the one in the New York Times of July 7, 2009) of the SEIU raiding UNITE HERE, and unjustly attacking its president, John Wilhelm. This kind of divisive and disruptive action could not come at a worse time. This is a complete departure from the SEIU that I have actively supported since 2001.

Now more than ever, when we face the historic opportunity and challenge to win health care reform, comprehensive immigration reform and labor law reform, we need a unified labor movement to be at the center of revitalizing a progressive movement for change.

If the SEIU is to continue its disruptive tactics, I can say without any degree of hesitation that it will lose a large portion of the religious community’s support that it has enjoyed over the past few years. If such tactics are to continue, then there will be a concerted effort on behalf of many of us in the religious community to withdraw our support of the SEIU.

Many of us view these disruptive tactics to be so basic to the undermining of the labor movement in this country that we are in conscience mandated, not just to discontinue support of the SEIU, but to openly oppose its policies and tactics.

I urge you to immediately cease and desist your attacks on UNITE HERE. When you negotiate a fair and just settlement with UNITE HERE and reclaim SEIU’s proud legacy of progressive leadership, then we in the religious community can in clear conscience resume our support of its organizing efforts.

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