Dave Regan: the public face of SEIU in Fresno

Dave Regan, executive vice-president of SEIU and appointed trustee of SEIU-UHW gave a speech last night to hundreds of SEIU organizers who have been shipped into Fresno from around the country.

Dave Regan is the public face of SEIU in Fresno County where 10,000 homecare workers are voting in an election to leave SEIU and join their own union, NUHW.  Here's a sample of what SEIU's top spokesperson in Fresno had to say:

You'd think Dave Regan would have addressed issues that Fresno's homecare workers care about like the cuts to their wages but "bury them" is the message SEIU wants to send to the thousands of Fresno homecare workers who signed petitions to leave SEIU and join NUHW:

I think when I look around the room, the group that comes to Fresno with the workboots, this is the group who all understand old-fashioned rules, this is the group that you might call "old school" and I know that I've talked to alot of people in this room and people know what that means when we talk about "old school."

There's a right way to do things and there's a wrong way to do things.

And the job that we have to do over the next week and the next two weeks as these ballots go out is that we have to just not win, we have to just not prevail, but we have run up the score and we have to drive a stake through heart of the thing that is NUHW, we gotta put them in the ground and bury them [cheers]

Dave Regan, didn't stop there. "Old School" clearly means tough talking:

That's tough talk from a labor union that claims to be the face of progressive activism:

In other words what we gotta do here, my "old school" friends is we have to administer an "old school" ass whipping over the next two weeks. [cheers]

I know everybody knows what that means: we have to give them a butt whipping that they will never forget. So that they don't even think that they can take this mess outta Fresno and bring it anywhere else.

But what does Dave Regan actually have to say about Fresno, the city and county where the homecare workers live and work?

That's an interesting way to talk about a city where the people voting in the election you are contesting live.

I also think it's important to acknowledge that here in Fresno you might have noticed we're not in a fancy hotel ballroom. There's really not good air conditioning here. It is hot. We're kind of in a barn. That's what this room is like.

Fresno is not a place that very many of us would have found all on our own without this reason to come here.

And the reason I say that is that too often in the union we talk about the union like all the important stuff goes on in Washington D.C. or New York City or Los Angeles or San Francisco but sisters and brothers I think that we all know that sometimes if you want to get the job done, if you want to defend and protect what really matters you've got to go somewhere that's not sexy, you've got to go somewhere that's not glamorous, you've got to go somewhere that's not Hollywood, you gotta go to Fresno. [laughter]

When Dave Regan says, "Fresno is not a place that very many of us would have found all on our own without this reason to come here"...that's the whole problem.

When Fresno homecare workers needed SEIU-UHW to defend their wages and benefits from cuts by the County Board of Supervisors, that didn't count as, "a reason to come here." And when Fresno homecare workers needed SEIU-UHW to mobilize them to defend their wages and benefits from cuts by Governor Schwarzenegger, that didn't count as, "a reason to come here."

The only reason for SEIU-UHW to come to Fresno with hundreds of out-of-state staff and millions of dollars in ads is to stop Fresno homecare workers from addressing SEIU-UHW's failure by standing up for themselves and forming their own strong, democratic, caregiver-led union, NUHW.

To give you an idea of what an actual Fresno homecare worker thinks of SEIU and her long struggle to build a powerful union representing homecare workers in Fresno, read this excellent editorial by homecare worker and leader Flo Furlow from the Fresno Bee:

The thing that made me most proud of the union we built was that it was based on a fundamental value we learned from our friends in the disability rights movement: "Make no decision about us without us." In our union, we elected our own representatives from neighborhoods all over Fresno County, and we made the decisions about our own futures. The era of dignity and respect for home-care workers had begun. We won our current wage of $10.25 an hour and lifted thousands out of poverty.

But by 2009, some of our union's Washington, D.C., leaders had lost their way. The leaders of the SEIU, our parent union, came to believe that they were smarter than their own members, and that only they should have the right to make decisions for us. It all came to a head when they took over our local union and replaced all our elected local leaders with their appointed bosses flown in from other parts of the country. The aftermath of that takeover has been heartbreaking. Before the takeover, we had a strong voice in our union. We were able to stop wage cuts and protect services year after year for the Fresno's most vulnerable residents.

Today we have no voice at all. Instead the only voice is that of out-of-touch SEIU officials we never elected, who this April locked us out of an arbitration over our own wages. The workers who bargained our contract with the county were shut out, and as a result, we are now watching our wages fall and our families' sense of security collapse while we have no voice to change it.

But if there's one thing I learned from the civil rights movement, it's that you don't have to just accept injustice. So we didn't. Thousands of us signed petitions to keep our own elected leadership, under a new name, the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The leaders of NUHW are the health care workers and leaders we elected, who we trust and who respect our voices.

We are voting in an election next week to take our union back, and to return it to the principle we founded it on: "No decision about us without us." I am excited to be voting for NUHW to put our union back on track to serving home-care workers and the people who depend on us.

In fact, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, stood with Flo Furlow last week in support of Fresno's homecare workers and of NUHW:

The contrast couldn't be more clear. On the one hand, tough, trash-talking Dave Regan is the face of SEIU in Fresno. On the other hand, Flo Furlow and Dolores Huerta, two women who've committed their lives to workers' power and social justice stand with NUHW. Those who've read the neverending stream of SEIU advertising online, should take a long hard look at those videos of Dave Regan above.

You can help Fresno homecare workers win their union in Fresno!

Click here to join our FACEBOOK solidarity group and click here to VOLUNTEER.

{Paul Delehanty is an employee of NUHW and is currently on the ground in Fresno.}

Tags: nuhw, SEIU (all tags)

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Thank you to all of you

who have joined our Facebook Solidarity group or volunteered and donated to help us win this crucial election.

All of us on the ground here in Fresno with NUHW appreciate your support and encouragement.

by Paul Delehanty 2009-06-02 12:30PM | 0 recs

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