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New Political Landscape Calls for Substantial Budget Cuts, Service Employees International Union President Says

Service Employees International Union, the nation’s second-largest labor union behind the National Education Association, will cut its budget by 30%, according to a December 14 internal union memo first reported by Bloomberg on December 27. A 10% cut will take place immediately; the cuts will reach 30% by the end of 2017.

In the memo to all staff, SEIU President, Mary Kay Henry, wrote that the cuts are motivated by the union’s fear that “[b]ecause 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….” The union endorsed Hillary Clinton and, according to the Washington Post, donated $1 million to Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC backing Clinton, and spent tens of millions on an independent field effort to turn out voters in battleground states.

Unions face challenges on several fronts under a Republican Congress and Presidency. A President Trump is expected to fill the two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board with business-oriented members, creating a 3-2 business-centric majority that likely will reverse several labor-friendly decisions issued by the NLRB during the past eight years. In addition, President-elect Trump is expected to fill the one U.S. Supreme Court vacancy with a conservative justice, creating an expected 5-4 majority to invalidate state laws requiring government employees to pay union fees. (In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that was before the Supreme Court earlier this year, the Court was expected to strike down such a law.  However, Justice Scalia’s death instead resulted in a four to four vote, leaving the lower court ruling refusing to invalidate the law intact. Several similar cases challenging such laws are pending in lower federal courts. The SEIU represents thousands of government employees who would be affected by a decision invalidating these laws.) The possibility also exists for the passage of a federal right-to-work law invalidating requirements in collective bargaining agreements that employees pay union dues or equivalent agency fees.

It is unlikely the budget cuts will cause the SEIU to abandon its “Fight for $15” campaign. According to Bloomberg, “[a]sked last year whether, if labor lost the Friedrichs case, she would redirect funds away from the Fight for $15, the union’s campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, SEIU’s Henry answered, ‘absolutely not.’ She added, ‘You can’t go smaller in this moment. You have to go bigger.’”

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019


About this Author

Howard Bloom, Jackson Lewis, labor union attorney, unfair practice investigations lawyer, employment legal counsel, bargaining law

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification...

Philip B. Rosen Jackson Lewis  Preventive Practices Lawyer & Collective Bargaining Attorney

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a member of the firm's Board of Directors and co-leads the firm's Labor and Preventive Practices Group. He joined the firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-in-force, purchase/sale transactions, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct rules, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and other workplace litigation, corporate campaigns and union organizing matters, collective bargaining, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. He has been quoted by the press on many labor matters, including the National Labor Relations Board’s recent initiatives on protected concerted activity and the proposed Notice Posting requirements.

Mr. Rosen has extensive experience advising clients developing integrated corporate-wide labor relations strategies - whether the organization is union-free, partially unionized or entirely unionized. He has led teams conducting multi-facility labor-related legal assessments where clients are seeking to develop creative, strategic legal approaches which anticipate major issues and achieve a company’s labor relations goals. Mr. Rosen also has advised clients being confronted with corporate campaigns and requests for neutrality agreements. He has represented organizations seeking to maximize management rights through their development of pro-active employee relations approaches to remain union-free. He also has advised unionized organizations on lawful negotiating strategies – in situations ranging from “hard bargaining” to recapture management rights to more “cooperative” negotiations – in all cases, providing legal advice designed to assist clients in achieving their primary goals.