Letter to the Editor: Fed Up with the SEIU, Brown University Workers Form Independent Union

Fed up with SEIU’s refusal to listen to the needs of its members, Brown University’s library and facilities units voted on August 25-26 to leave the International and form an independent union, the United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island (USAW-RI). Providence Public Library members voted on September 10 to join them and others will follow.

After petitions were filed by several units in June and July to go independent, members were notified by SEIU that it had placed the union in trusteeship “to address the crisis situation in Local 134.” SEIU fired the Local’s elected Business Agent, Karen McAninch, and Treasurer Charles Wood, locking them out of the office.

Dissatisfaction with SEIU had been growing in its Rhode Island unit since the International enacted its New Strength Unity Plan at the 2000 Convention. This plan gave SEIU the authority to merge local unions and relocate bargaining units, moves that would be bankrolled by an increase in dues above and beyond that voted by the local.

Dissatisfaction with SEIU had been growing since the International enacted its New Strength Unity Plan at the 2000 Convention.



Give $10 a month or more and get our "Fight the Boss, Build the Union" T-shirt.

Under the plan, SEIU then ordered their UNICCO workers at Providence College and Fleet Bank in Rhode Island transferred out of Local 134 to Boston Local 615 (formerly 254), despite the members’ desire to remain with Local 134.

Brown University’s Library Unit has been engaged in contract negotiations since September 2002, and negotiators were increasingly frustrated by SEIU’s repeated failure to respond to requests for help in settling the contract.

Ironically, when SEIU finally did respond to its members, its strong-arm techniques, cursory dismissal of elected officials, and misleading claims about the new union solidified their discontent, and they voted to leave.

The formation of the independent USAW-RI means that its members will now have control over the policies and finances of their labor organization, a situation that’s becoming more and more rare due to the big unions’ drives to consolidate power on a national level. In many cases, the actions of the national governing boards of these unions mirror those of anti-labor businesses: reorganization without regard for the welfare of the rank and file employee.