Major labor union working against Democrats, forming third party in North Carolina

Apparently inspired by certain Democrats voting against the health insurance reform, the Service Employees International Union – a union representing over 2 million workers – is surprisingly planning to work against Democrats this election season.

Perhaps the strongest challenge to Democrats, if not the Democratic establishment itself, will be in North Carolina.  The national SEIU is working with the State Employees Association of North Carolina, its state affiliate, to form the North Carolina First Party.  The only text on the party’s website says,

For too long parties and politicians in Washington have worked more for their own political self interest, or worse, corporate special interests, instead of the hard working families of North Carolina.

That’s why members of progressive groups across North Carolina, including the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began work to form North Carolina First to ensure that politicians put middle class families first and not their own special interests.

North Carolina First is on the ground talking to voters. Right now, North Carolina First is gathering signatures to determine whether toqualify as a state party – to give working families the ability to choose a candidate that will fight for their interests – or to identify Congressional candidates who will stay accountable to the needs of working families not Washington’s special interests.

And confirming the thought that this is not to challenge the Democratic Party itself, but to challenge individual Democrats who voted against the health insurance bill, is Jim Morrill of Campaign Tracker:

Spokesman Greg Rideout said they have about 10,000 of the 80,000 or so required signatures. He described the effort as an alternative for disgruntled progressives…

Rideout, a former aide in the N.C. Justice Department, said the movement isn’t aimed at any particular person or party. But if the effort does manage to get on the ballot, expect candidates in U.S. House races in Districts 7, 8 and 11. They’re the homes of the three Democratic members of Congress who voted against their party’s health care bill. [emphasis added]

And in New York, SEIU is allying itself with the Working Families Party and against a Democratic Congressman who voted against the bill, Michael Arcuri.  The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports:

The state Working Families Party and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union announced Friday they will be withdrawing support of Arcuri for the November election…

The union has 275,000 members in the state and several thousand in the district.

John Furman, a member of the state Working Families Party Committee, said the party also is recruiting candidates and having preliminary conversations because of concern that Arcuri is siding with the insurance industry instead of his constituents.

“We feel it’s a litmus test for candidates to show that they do represent progressive, core values,” Furman said of the health care vote…

In 2008, Arcuri received 9,454 votes on the Working Families Party line and defeated Hanna by 9,919 votes, party spokesman Dan Levitan has said…

On Friday, the New York State AFL-CIO union, which represents more than 2½ million people in the state, also sent Arcuri a letter signed by more than 20 labor leaders from across the state expressing their sense of betrayal at his decision to vote against the health care bill.

Already, a few progressives are doubting SEIU’s sincerity.  At Firedoglake, David Dayen writes in a post titled “Wake Me When SEIU’s ‘North Carolina First Party’ Runs a Candidate:”

I’ve been saying for a while now that the vaunted “accountability moment” that labor and Democratic allies will run against those in the caucus who voted against health care is a mirage. I don’t know how many examples people need. First the primary challenger to Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin was talked out of the race, then Jason Altmire’s challenger realized he waited too long to make a serious run, then Stephen Lynch’s possible primary disintegrated…

SEIU isn’t really at war with the Obama Administration. Andy Stern was just appointed to the President’s deficit commission. They may have problems with some of the Blue Dogs in North Carolina, to be sure. But the third party route is just destined to be squelched by national Democrats.

This analysis of the union’s intentions, however, should be taken with a grain of salt.  Later in the piece Dayen advocates a strategy of challenging Blue Dog Democrats in the primary rather than as independents in the general election.  Also, Dayen incorrectly asserts that SEIU is challenging the Obama Administration, when they actually supported President Obama’s health plan and are running candiates against people who voted “no” on the health bill.

It remains to be seen whether SEIU is sincere or not, whether candidates will emerge to challenge these Democratic Congresspeople or not.  In any case, it’s a situation worth watching.

30 thoughts on “Major labor union working against Democrats, forming third party in North Carolina

  1. Trent Hill

    Also, Local SEIU 1199 has always worked with the NY Working Families Party.

  2. Danny S

    I think SEIU may have appeared a little more sincere if they were supporting the Greens instead of making a whole new party…

  3. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    “Success”? Depends what you mean by it.

    The goal isn’t to elect a candidate, this is just a heavy-handed telegraphing of their willingness to support a primary challenge.

    In the end, the nay-sayers will be proven right: they won’t run their own candidates, and they’ll come out in favor of some Democrat or another. But their ploy will, probably, also succeed; someone will step up, and gleefully take all that support for a primary run.

  4. Gene Berkman

    Service Employees International Union mainly represents government workers, and is a major force pushing for expanding government.

    Over the last 10 years, SEIU has spent over $200 million in support of candidates in California, and in 2008 SEIU put $64 million into the Obama campaign.

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  7. Vaughn

    275,000 in the state, need 85,000 signatures…31% of the union would have to sign. That isn’t including the family of the union member.

    This has me interested…

  8. Ross Levin Post author

    The overwhelming majority also vote Democrat/Republican, and yet we’re still here…

    Vaughn, they’re not only collecting union signatures, I assume. And they’ve already got 10,000, supposedly.

  9. deran

    The SEIU is not mostly public sector employees. The majority of members are in the health care sector and in the property maintenance services. The SEIU has the second largest number of public sector employees among unions.

    This reminds me all too much of the whole “Labor Party Advocates” schtick of the mid-90s. And we can see how far that went.

  10. Sean Scallon

    If the SEIU is smart they’ll create a political organization that runs and supports candidates in the primaries if they wish to take down such so-called “conservative Democrats”. It would be modeled on the lines of the old Non-Partisan League of North Dakota.

    Another non-major party is just that. It won’t have any impact compared to an NPL. The Labor Party, Union Party, all these little left-wing labor parties don’t work outside the big party structure.

  11. Joyce McCloy

    I live in NC. Greens haven’t been able to get on the ballot for years, but the Libertarians have. It takes hard work to get on our ballot.

    A new third party would have better chance of getting on ballot and actually doing something, whereas the Green Party has not been strong.

    The stronger force is the SEIU.

    This is a good time to suggest the state adopt FUSION voting, so that the third party voice is actually meaningful.

  12. Ross Levin Post author

    Joyce, I believe SC does have fusion voting. But that doesn’t necessarily make the third party voice meaningful. It’s not used in every state that it exists in.

    Sean – I think the primarying strategy has been tried and failed in many places. The problem is that the Democratic Party is so big that it consistently has to side with the status quo rather than more radical change. But that’s not even relevant – these people are running against conservative Democrats who didn’t support the health insurance bill, and they can’t primary in NC because the primary is May 4.

  13. Cody Quirk

    The overwhelming majority also vote Democrat/Republican, and yet we’re still here…

    = And the overwhelming majority of third parties have their place in the spectrum.

  14. Ross Levin Post author

    I mean, you can fit anything into the spectrum, but I don’t think it reflects reality. Admittedly, I use it sometimes because it’s a convenient and simplified version of reality that’s easy for people to understand quickly and it makes it easy to get a point across. But it’s doesn’t reflect reality well, and people taking it too literally sometimes warps their understanding of politics.

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