The SEIU Budget Cut Mystery

Last week Josh Eidelson of Bloomberg BusinessWeek obtained an internal Service Employees International Union (SEIU) memo that alerted its employees to a 30 percent budget cut in 2017.

The December 14 memo from SEIU president Mary Kay Henry blames the cuts on the 2016 election results.

Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions. These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.

While it seems certain that the fat years are over for SEIU, it’s curious that union leadership feels the need to take such immediate and drastic steps. After all, the “dramatically reduced resources” haven’t been dramatically reduced yet, and preemptive cuts make it less likely that resistance will be effective.

I don’t have up-to-date financials for SEIU, but at the beginning of 2015 the union was sitting on $281 million in annual revenue with a $12.2 million surplus, and almost $147 million in net assets. So what’s the rush?

The SEIU watchdog Stern Burger with Fries and his sources have a sound theory: The union is preparing for its long-awaited merger with AFSCME.

As we have seen with NEA-AFT state affiliate mergers, staff unions can often negotiate no-layoff clauses to protect jobs. But if you institute staff layoffs because of Trump, you can then proceed with a union merger without hurdles.

Some labor commentators have suggested union mergers will become more common in a post-agency fee world. That may be, but it will have to be a long fall before NEA and AFT take up the issue again.