Why Does SEIU’s Andy Stern Sound Like Rahm Emanuel?

Rahm SEIU ColorsUpdate: SEIU contacted me to say that Andy would in no way be "happy" with triggers–he was asked a hypothetical question and answered it in this way. One of the SEIU’s three demands is a public health insurance option, and the union has been running one of the largest field campaigns in support of that. I’ve changed the post to more accurately represent Andy’s comments.

It’s bad enough that a guy who usually has just as much fight as Rahm is telling ABC that he’d be happy with triggers triggers are a better compromise than co-ops.

He signaled that a more acceptable compromise might be to create a public option whose creation is only triggered if certain circumstances are met.

"It’s obviously better than no public option," said Stern.

Triggers, of course, are Rahm’s favorite gimmick. And Andy-who-sounds-like Rahm must know that triggers mean people who need healthcare now won’t get it until two years beyond whenever this finally gets implemented–years and years down the road. So answer me this, Andy-who-sounds-like-Rahm? Do you really think delaying health care for millions is going to solve the problem you enunciate about winning in 2010?

"I think we’re talking losing control of Congress," said Andy Stern, the President of the Service Employees International Union. "[The failure of health-care reform] would totally empower Republicans to kill all change."

"It’s hard to imagine the Democrats convincing the public that Republicans are to blame for health-care reform going down when the Democrats have such large majorities," he added. "After last year’s promise of change, voters will start feeling buyer’s remorse."

You’re telling me people are not going to feel buyer’s remorse if the Democrats take that same large majority and tell them they can have health care, but only after their current, pre-existing condition either bankrupts or kills them?

"Oh, sure, we lost Dad when good healthcare could have saved him, but we still love the Democrats because Rahm asked so nicely for that two year delay in the guise of triggers and the rest of the Democrats gave it to him."

What surprises me is that Andy-who-sounds-like Rahm knows, in a way that I suspect Rahm doesn’t, how much misery that seemingly innocuous idea of triggers would unnecessarily cause a lot of people.

But I think I’ve discovered why Andy sounds so much like Rahm.

Stern is prepared to use SEIU resources to pressure recalcitrant Democrats in Congress if progress is not made by Sept. 15, the deadline which Senate Finance Committee negotiators have set for themselves.

For now, however, he is holding his fire against fellow Democrats since the president has signaled through his staff that he does not want Democrats shooting at one another.

"We call it: ‘helping the president be successful,’" said Stern with a smile.

Almost word-for-word the prettied up version of Rahm’s fuck-laden attack on the liberal groups "in the veal pen." It’s not that Andy sounds like Rahm–after all, he said neither fuck nor blowjob. Rather, Andy sounds like he has been in the veal pen too long.

Update: the article has been updated to include the following after the trigger comment:

While Stern left the impression that a public option with a trigger was a more acceptable compromise than a co-op, he stopped short of actually endorsing the trigger approach.

I want to belong to a Democratic coalition that recognizes the public option is the compromise!!

44 replies
  1. Sparkatus says:

    I think it’s time to start moving our goalposts. That’s the only way to stay out of the veal pen (though if I could be a nice Kobe, beer fed calf, I might be a little more willing to be domesticated).

    Single payer, the once and future plan.

  2. Boston1775 says:

    Be very careful of this man.
    I guess I’ll let the California Nurses speak for themselves:
    “SEIU wants to silence the foremost critic of SEIU’s program of aiding employer efforts to undermine patient standards, break down working conditions, cut wages, and eliminate employee benefits in return for employer grants of recognition by SEIU.”

    “RNs are unified in rejecting this blatant attempt by SEIU to force itself on our members,” DeMoro said. “They well know the history of SEIU in signing substandard, backdoor deals with employers that sacrifice the interests of RNs and patients, in undermining RN professional standards, and in suppressing union democracy.”

    In the meantime, California hospitals and nursing homes have been plunged into a chaotic internal war with SEIU’s Regan while some 25,000 healthcare workers have filed petitions to leave SEIU and join a new local led by the ousted UHW President Sal Rosselli.

    “Instead of focusing on passing the Employee Free Choice Act,” said DeMoro, “SEIU is using its members’ dues to destroy other unions and create this massive upheaval in California. Millions of dollars of SEIU members’ dues have been wasted in trying to take over unions in California and control them from Washington.”

    Regan was named by Stern to be an executive vice president of SEIU shortly after one of SEIU and Regan’s most notorious exploits – an assault on a peaceful union conference near Detroit last April at which DeMoro was scheduled to speak about the campaign for healthcare reform.

    Shortly before the dinner event at which DeMoro was scheduled to speak, busloads of SEIU representatives, led by SEIU staff, many from Regan’s local in Ohio and West Virginia, stormed the conference, breaking into the banquet room. Some staffers, wearing purple bandanas over their faces to hide their identities, proceeded to punch, shove, kick, and knock union members to the floor who were in their way.


  3. TomWells says:

    But he also rejected coops and never fully endorsed “triggers.”

    “While Stern left the impression that a public option with a trigger was a more acceptable compromise than a co-op, he stopped short of actually endorsing the trigger approach.”

    I don’t like triggers.

    • mbrownerhamlin says:

      Thanks for posting that Tom.

      The initial article incorrectly described Andy’s stance on triggers. It has since been updated with the line Tom quotes, which makes clear Andy does not endorse triggers or co-ops.

  4. SaltinWound says:

    It seems like some of the same problems apply to a public plan with no triggers. I don’t think anyone is talking about getting a “day one” public plan going before 2012. People with pre-existing conditions could be screwed for a few years either way. Practically, it could be the difference between a public plan going into effect in 2013 or in 2015, which is somewhat meaningful but harder to grasp.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, which is a problem unto itself.

      I KNOW all this. Nevertheless, faced with one more year of COBRA available to me, and then a pre-existing and one of the more rapacious Blues to get insurance from, I really don’t know how I’m going to bridge from 2010 to 2012 without going broke.

      I guess I’ll have to stop blogging and get a job with healthcare.

      • joanneleon says:

        Six months of COBRA left, several pre-existings and too sick to get a full time job (some days too sick to walk up the steps). It looks like I’m going down unless some kind of miracle happens. Anyone know a good shaman?

        • Sufilizard2 says:

          Depending on your condition, there could very well be some alternative treatments that could help.

        • cbl2 says:

          maddening. so very sorry to hear of your dealing with this

          have you attempted to get an extension on your COBRA coverage ? one of the narrow windows for extension is if for example you have gone from “unemployed” to “permanently disabled” while under COBRA ?

          are you aware there is financial assistance on COBRA payments for some of us under the Stimulus package ??

          and joan, please allow me a pre emptive apology if my questions seem insensitive in the face of your present circumstances.

          • joanneleon says:

            Thanks, cbl2. We missed the COBRA assistance deadline by 3 days. It applies to people laid off on or after a specific date, which we missed by a hair.

            I will look into the extension, and thanks for the info. about unemployed/disability. I’m hoping not to be permanently disabled, but things are up in the air on that right now. I’m giving this new doctor’s treatment plan a shot but already looking for other alternatives too. I’ve heard it’s a nightmare to get disability status too.

      • ffein says:

        Don’t give up! I had BCBS through an employer, left and had COBRA until it expired, then was able to convert to BCBS (because I had had COBRA) and it was cheaper than the COBRA price. It didn’t cover things like doctor office visits or prescriptions, but it covered most everything else. Now I have Medicare which is much better!!! One good thing about aging…

  5. joanneleon says:

    Yesterday in this diary on dkos, Stern was quoted from his twitter account:

    While Congress ” deliberates” Americans suffer. Leadership is about making choices-and the longer we wait the worse it gets.

    We should not lower our expectations on health care. We won the election and a bad plan could lose the next one-America needs real reform.
    7:10 PM Aug 17th

    and the SEIU position on the public option on their web site was cited:


    The option of a public health insurance plan is necessary to ensure appropriate and adequate coverage, to foster choice and competition, to bring down costs, and to assure consumers have a stable marketplace where they can find quality, affordable coverage.

    I’ve always had the sense that AFL-CIO was the group who was really out in front of the “no public option = no reform” movement, but after reading that diary last night, I thought SEIU was on board. I had not trusted them on the health care reform issue before that.

    Now we hear that triggers are okay with Andy Stern? I find what SEIU is doing to be deceptive and I don’t like being manipulated like that.

    (Rant of frustration: I was calling for a more specific name for the public option from the start. It should have been a well-defined program with a specific name, Public Plan X, so that we could have avoided all this nonsense with people saying they are for it or against it while nobody knows exactly what it is. That has been a big problem from the start, and one that I’ve often thought will be used to screw us over in the end. I feel like there is deliberate confusion being put out there right now.)

  6. emptywheel says:

    And that’s me, someone who KNOWS all this. Who can plan ahead for a 2 year (or, with triggers, a four year) window. What are the people who don’t know this going to think that “health reform” means “health reform in two years.”

  7. Sufilizard2 says:

    “It’s hard to imagine the Democrats convincing the public that Republicans are to blame for health-care reform going down when the Democrats have such large majorities,”

    The public may be gullible but they’ll place the blame squarely where it belongs – on the Democrats. The answer isn’t to compromise more.

    Dems have the votes to do whatever they want — it’s just becoming more and more apparent they don’t really want change like the folks who voted them into those majorities.

  8. i4u2bi says:

    I’ve seen this before in a local..don’t know if it was inexpierence or payoff. Just the same people got screwed.

  9. cbl2 says:

    wow. looks like Stern shares another trait with Rahm – believing his own hype about his own mad skills and gut instinct –

    what a dumbass statement in light of what Richard Trumka is saying this week

    • Leen says:

      Labor Warns Dems: We’ll Sit Out Election If You Oppose Public Plan

      More Stern discussion over at Seminal
      Know Your Enemy — and It Ain’t SEIU
      t was dismaying to read this. But it’s important to understand the problem is external to the coalition, and not within it.

      Misunderstanding among friends is to be expected when external forces are working very hard to undermine the solidarity of groups that otherwise have a common goal and should remain united against far more important concerns.

      Despite President Obama’s unhelpful comments — see here, here, and here — about his and our support for the public option, his gratuitous and condescending comments today about the “left” — and when did we start defining “the left” as between 57 percent and 77 percent of the public? — make it clear that the White House’ strategy is to paint anyone who insists on a public option as a threat to the goal of passing a health care reform bill.

  10. CasualObserver says:


    Coalitions of interest groups running at least $24 million in pro-overhaul ads hired GMMB, which worked for Obama’s 2008 campaign and whose partners include a top Obama campaign strategist. They also hired AKPD Message and Media, which was founded by David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama’s campaign and now to the White House. AKPD did work for Obama’s campaign, and Axelrod’s son Michael and Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe work there.

    The firms were hired by Americans for Stable Quality Care and its predecessor, Healthy Economy Now. Each was formed by a coalition of interests with big stakes in health care policy, including the drug maker lobby PhRMA, the American Medical Association, the Service Employees International Union and Families USA, which calls itself “The Voice for Health Care Consumers.”

    • greenharper says:

      So THAT’s perhaps why David Axelrod stood up before the June 2009 Mass Dems convention and exhorted us to get out and work for Obama’s programs! As if we were Obama’s employees, rather than the reverse.

      After the campaign, hearing such a message from Axelrod was a real letdown.

      Thanks for adding some dots that might be connected.

  11. i4u2bi says:

    I hate this, people getting condemed to sickness and death by our own Party. I’m sick to my stomach thinking that I gave them money to screw me (us) with. Get thee behind us hope!

    • CasualObserver says:

      I’m sick to my stomach thinking that I gave them money to screw me (us) with.

      But that’s all in the Past. Let’s not go there, but instead look foward, ever forward.

  12. eagleye says:

    Here’s my progressive “trigger” plan:

    We accept whatever shitty bill the Senate Finance Committee produces, with the proviso that if certain very aggressive cost reduction benchmarks aren’t met within two years, then the whole nation shifts to single payer. Let’s put that on the table and watch the squirming in Washington….

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        She was on with David and Tamara. I’m sure there will be a video soon. It was too short an exchange…

            • rosalind says:

              well, it certainly got the thermometer on the right moving upwards. msnbc got the vapors, but the viewing public got the point, and voted with their dollars.

              team blowjob!

          • Leen says:

            Hey ew when will your be spending a lengthy period of time in D.C. so they can slip you on MSNBC more often to shake it up like Jane. When you were on Schuster did they stream you from your home town or were you in the studio in D.C.?

            She is the perfect spokeswoman for progressives on Health Care. But I for one would sure like to see you on there more addressing torture, false pre-war intelligence etc and accountability. Through the fall we are sure to witness the warmongers turn up the heat on Iran. And we are sure to witness the talking heads (including Rachel and Keith) allow the endless unsubstantiated claims about Iran to be repeated and continue to go
            unchallenged. We need you on there for a counter balance

            Surprised by Stern…generally support his stances on issues. Wonder if Rahm is whispering in his ear?

  13. WilliamOckham says:

    OT: Scott Horton reminds us that:

    The CIA Inspector General’s report is now set to be released on Monday in response to Freedom of Information Act litigation.

  14. Mason says:

    My father, who died of Alzheimer’s Disease in April 2000, used to say,

    My dad used to tell me to smile because things could get worse. So, I smiled and sure enough, they got worse.

    I went bankrupt paying for uninsured long term nursing home care for my mother (8 years following a debilitating stroke) and my father (7 years Alzheimer’s). She had the stroke right after she put him in the nursing home. The total cost was a little over $1 million. Managed to pay that, but no longer could afford to pay for health insurance for my wife and me. Two years later she fell 30 feet and broke her back and both of her legs.

    Fortunately, she recovered, but we had to file for bankruptcy after we lost everything we had and now both of us are unemployed and uninsured.

    And believe me when I say that both of us realize that there are many many people who are far worse off than we are. We have our health, a car that runs, and a roof over our heads. My unemployment and early social security retirement covers the basics, but Medicare for me is still three years away, so the future is uncertain.

    There is absolutely no good reason for any of this and I’ll never understand how someone can live with himself or herself self righteously denying affordable health care to people like us.

    I often fantasize about the wonderful time I would have, if I could have just three minutes alone in a locked room with someone like a CEO of one of the health insurance companies, Dick Armey, Senator Baucus, or Senator Grassley. In my fantasy, I would joyously kill them with my bare hands and never ever regret it.

    When I wake up, though, I always remember not to smile.

    • skdadl says:

      Och, Mason, I know some of your story — the paying for the nursing home part — but not the medical expenses, because I live in single-payerland. It was hard enough for me, and my heart goes out to anyone who had to do more than I did.

      I’m so shocked by what I read here from friends in the U.S. who should be getting the best of care for minimal tax contributions, which is more or less how we do it. How can it be that a vital young woman (EW) has to worry about “pre-existing conditions” being covered? Everyone over twenty-five has some pre-existing condition or other, for heaven’s sake. You should see some of my pre-existing conditions.

      I’m really cheering for you guys, and I understand very well your anger at the jerks who are selling you out. Even with a moderately decent public system, being medicalized is a damned hard thing to cope with. It has been hard for me, but when I read your stories, I feel like such a wimp.

      • Mason says:


        As Hamlet might have said,

        “To cope, or not to cope, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”

        As Che Guevarra said, “In revolution, one wins or one dies.”

        People do the best they can to survive. Sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it isn’t. There’s a tipping point, however, when the struggles of the many mirror your own and your focus turns outward toward the group ultimately producing revolution.

        We are much closer to that point than most people realize.

  15. orionATL says:


    “… I want to belong to a Democratic coalition that recognizes the public option is the compromise!!”…

    me too.

    didn’t we hear very early on that the obama admin was going to invite all the “stakeholders” to the “table”?

    yes, we did.

    my question is:

    when was i invited? i didn’t hear.

    when were any other citizens invited? i didn’t hear about that either.

    were ANY representatives of “the american public” invited to that “table”?

    not that i know about.

    so what’s with obama’s bureaucratic jargon about “inviting all stakeholders to the table” – and that is precisely what it is, “bureaucratic jargon”, jargon used throughout govt and in many private organizations?

    apparently it means the interests of all parties who have a monied-income interest in the outcome of the obama admin’s health care legislation will be carefully considered by the whitehouse.

    the public does not have such an interest and so was not invited and so gains little benefit from this proposed legislation.

    well, there IS “cost cutting” –

    trickle-down health care reform!!

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