The Service Employees International Union plans to send 25,000 rank-and-file workers on 500 buses to Washington this weekend to protest the tea party movement, Republicans and Fox News. If SEIU members had any sense, they'd be demonstrating at their own bosses' D.C. headquarters. It's the Big Labor Left, not the Tea Party Right, that is flushing rank-and-file union workers' hard-earned dues down the collective toilet in these hard times.
The co-organizer of the so-called "One Nation" protest by a coalition of progressive groups is George Gresham, president of the behemoth SEIU Local 1199 based in New York. (This is the same SEIU affiliate that employed current Obama domestic policy adviser Patrick Gaspard as chief lobbyist for nine years.) Peeved by all the attention that grassroots conservatives and limited government activists have received over the past year, Gresham spearheaded the rally plans earlier this summer to "counter the Tea Party narrative" and reclaim the voice for "working people." Perhaps Gresham should pay more attention to his workers' pensions than to tea party leaders' media appearances.
SEIU Local 1199's Upstate Pension Fund has plunged from 115 percent funded in 1999 to 75 percent funded, and its Greater New York Pension Fund was funded at only 58 percent of its future obligations as of 2007, according to Hudson Institute analyst Diana Furchtgott-Roth. The union fat cats blame Wall Street. But while the pensions of SEIU workers nationwide are in "endangered status," the pensions of SEIU top brass have been protected and remain fully funded.
The D.C.-based Alliance for Worker Freedom, which monitors labor union abuses, reported last year that 13 major local SEIU pension funds are in serious financial jeopardy. Indeed, fewer than one in every 160 union-represented workers is covered by a union pension with required assets. Local 1199 workers -- already subject to wage freezes to salvage their pensions -- might want to know how their leaders were able to pony up $1 million for Haiti earthquake relief in January while their retirement funds wither on the vine.
SEIU leaders have shown a special talent for squandering their workers' dues. They poured $10 million down the drain in Arkansas on a failed bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. They spent $10 million on a nasty lawsuit against a competing union in California. They've burned through union dues to transport SEIU radicals to bully bank execs and their families at their private homes and to bus workers to Arizona to protest crackdowns on illegal aliens, who depress the wages of law-abiding working-class Americans.