A less perfect union - Page 2

At a time when organized labor is slipping, SEIU's national leaders are wasting their resources trying to discredit Sal Rosselli
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Sal Rosselli
Photo by Charles Russo

But after his initial misgivings, he said he devoted himself to backing Stern's vision for the combined local: "We were told over and over that change is hard. So I decided to give it an honest shot." Dewar said he worked to get good press for 1021 and to build Davis-Howard's profile.

But early this year, tensions between Rosselli and Stern flared — and according to Dewar, top staffers at 1021 began to focus more and more of their attention on the feud.

"They were freaking out about Sal," he said.

Enraged at what he considered International meddling in the affairs of his Oakland-based local, United Healthcare Workers West, Rosselli resigned from SEIU's executive committee in early February. He also began championing a "Platform for Change" to be voted on at the upcoming SEIU convention in June. Among other things, the Rosselli-backed slate of reforms would give local union outlets more say in proposed mergers and collective bargaining agreements. The platform, if approved, would also scrap the current delegate system for electing International officials and replace it with a one-member, one-vote structure.

According to Dewar's account and to evidence obtained by the Guardian, top SEIU officials have been working overtime to counter Rosselli — even pushing the boundaries of the union's own rules and colluding with political consultants who have often opposed organized labor.

'THE ANTI-CHRIST'

In early March, Dewar said that in early March, Josie Mooney, a former Local 790 president who is now a top assistant to Stern, approached him about joining what she characterized as a "skunk team that Andy and I are putting together." Dewar recalls Mooney telling him that the purpose of the team was to counter Rosselli's increasing popularity with the rank and file, and to sink Rosselli's platform for the convention.

Dewar told us that Mooney asked him to join the skunk team during a brunch meeting at the Fog City Diner in early March. An e-mail exchange he shared with us shows that he and Mooney discussed having brunch at the diner on March 1.

Mooney did not return numerous calls for comment and, through an SEIU spokesperson, she declined to speak for this article. But Dewar told us Mooney promised him at the brunch that his assistance in her efforts would win him positive attention from Stern. The team, she reportedly told him, was directly authorized by Stern and "that resources would not be a problem."

Dewar said he vacillated about joining the team, torn about aiding what he considered to be an internal union smear squad. "In 1021, we're conditioned to think that Sal Rosselli is the anti-Christ," Dewar told us. "But even still, he was still a part of the same union." A March 4 e-mail from Mooney's SEIU e-mail account to Dewar shows her urging Dewar to make up his mind: "You have to give me your commitment. I am (as we speak) selling you at the highest levels. Don't blow that :)."

Dewar eventually agreed to join Mooney, Tom DeBruin — an elected vice president of SEIU International — and someone Dewar said Mooney referred to as the team's "silent partner" for a dinner meeting.

E-mails from Mooney and other attendees show that the meeting took place March 10 at Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland.

Mooney's "silent partner" turned out to be Mark Mosher, of the enormously successful San Francisco consulting firm, Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, Lauter, and Partners (BMWL). John Whitehurst, another of the firm's partners, also attended the dinner.

BMWL has worked for the SEIU since 2001. But its client roster also included Sutter Health and the Committee on Jobs. Both organizations have less-than-stellar reputations among organized labor. Nurses at 10 Bay Area Sutter hospitals recently walked off the job for a 10-day strike.

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