Behind SEIU Chief Andy Stern's Resignation

After helping pass health care, he plans to pass the torch

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As chief of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the nation's largest unions, Andy Stern is a big player in Democratic politics. The group, which represents about 2 million workers, has been influential within the Obama administration. Stern's SEIU demonstrated their clout during the health care reform debate, when they secured concessions from lawmakers in exchange for large-scale organizing in support of the bill. So why would Stern, at only 59, step down?

  • Because Health Care Passed The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes, "The cause of his life -- comprehensive health care reform -- was signed into law, as he watched, two weeks ago. ... Stern feels that he's outlived his usefulness and would rather turn his union over to younger folks with new ideas, associates said." Ambinder reports, "Earlier in the year, he told friends that he would step down after health care -- and that's what he's apparently decided to do."
  • Fought With Other Unions The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse recounts Stern's "fierce battles with two other unions, a large breakaway S.E.I.U. local in the San Francisco Bay area, and Unite Here, the union representing hotel and restaurant workers. Mr. Stern has become a lighting rod within labor, ever since he led a half dozen unions to quit the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation's main labor federation, in 2005. His union, which represents hundreds of thousands of health-care workers and janitors, asserted that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. had grown stodgy and was doing far too little to unionize workers."
  • Stern Led Watershed Year of SEIU Politico's Ben Smith, who first reported the news, writes, "The SEIU has emerged as a central political player and has grown rapidly under Stern's tenure, and some close to him had expected him to resign during the first term of the president he helped elect, and after the achievement he'd spent years focusing on, widening access to health care. ... Stern also won a victory when Obama named his union's lawyer, Craig Becker, to the National Labor Relations board over Republican objections in a recess appointment last month."
  • Was He Forced Out? The Huffington Post's Sam Stein speculates, "The circumstances through which Stern's pending retirement was announced have indeed been bizarre, catching several SEIU officials off-guard. Certainly, it doesn't appear to be the method by which Stern was hoping for the news to become public. ... As is typical when powerful political figures abruptly leave their posts, Stern's departure has spurred speculation that he was compelled to leave by more than just a sense of proper timing."
  • Poses Challenge for Obama The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza looks ahead. "The heir apparent for Stern at SEIU is Anna Burger who currently heads up Change to Win. The other name prominently mentioned as a Stern replacement is SEIU executive vice president Mary Kay Henry," he writes. "No matter the choice to replace Stern, the challenge for the president will be significant. There is talk that Change to Win may eventually return to the AFL-CIO fold -- a delicate dance with which the next head of SEIU will be tasked."
  • Stern Looking Ahead? A conservative blogger for Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site muses, "Andy Stern's not tired. He's not going anywhere. He might resign as President of the SEIU, but that won't stop him from trying to be President know." The blogger speculates, "Maybe Obama has bigger plans for him than just a piddly old Deficit Czar."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.