The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has become a favorite target of the extreme right wing. As SEIU becomes a more significant force for change in this country, we are going to continue to be hit by the same extreme right-wing attack machine that is trying to block healthcare reform and regulatory reform – the change this country needs to help working families and to rebuild the middle class.
The radical right in this country wants nothing more than to make SEIU, grassroots community groups, and any individual who fights against the status quo their next casualty. They are seeking to silence the voices of those men and women who suffered the most under 8 years of extreme right-wing policies, and to smear anyone who stands up for those men and women. Right now, there are daily attacks from conservative radio and TV pundits on us for our work on healthcare, labor rights, immigration, and our working relationship with community and progressive organizations – most recently ACORN.
ACORN has come under fire for video footage recorded by undercover operatives posing as a prostitute and her companion seeking tax and housing advice at five ACORN offices across the country. The behaviors we’ve seen on these videos as well some past improper handling of voter registration materials by individuals are unacceptable and ACORN did the right thing by taking immediate action against the responsible individuals. While over the years SEIU has contracted with ACORN for voter registration, canvassing efforts, and organizing work, the union has suspended all active work with ACORN. SEIU President Andy Stern recently joined the Advisory Council of ACORN to provide guidance as they evaluate some recent troubles they have had. Along with John Podesta, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and other Advisory Council members, Andy Stern has encouraged ACORN to take dramatic steps to resolve their underlying organizational problems, and has supported a thorough, top-to-bottom review into ACORN’s systems and processes, led by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.
It should be noted that there are no ACORN offices or staff in Tennessee, nor has SEIU Local 205 worked with them in any official capacity.
At the same time, we must recognize the important need for services and organizations that address issues faced by low- and moderate-income families. ACORN’s challenge, if they want to continue to be a national organization that provides these services, is to immediately conduct an internal investigation to swiftly and completely root out their underlying problems and make sure these issues never come up again.
Our challenge – and that of the progressive community – is to make sure that the critical work of voter registration and campaigns for better housing, schools, neighborhood safety, healthcare, and job conditions continues so we can lift people out of poverty and help rebuild our economy. Furthermore, we refuse to let smear attempts from the radical right deter us from our own goals of passing affordable healthcare, fixing our broken immigration system, and building an economy that works for everyone.