Harold Meyerson put this year’s convention in historic perspective in his Washington Post column that week.
The really intriguing parts of the speech come about twenty minutes in.
Discussion at the convention was framed about a “circle of strength” metaphor—a somewhat clunky slogan for the 2004-2008 platform.
Stern explained that to help build a meaningful voice for working people, SEIU and the rest of the union movement need to rebuild several strengths. The most interesting include . . .
* National strength. Like most unions, SEIU is strong in a few areas but weak or non-existent in other areas of the country. There was a lot of discussion about sending members, staff, and resources to the South and Southwest to help nonunion workers join SEIU--maybe the first time anyone has seriously talked about this since the CIO's Operation Dixie in the late 1940s.
* Labor strength. In the speech, Stern gave a short version of SEIU's argument that the existing AFL-CIO can’t meet the challenge of restoring an independent voice for working Americans. He called on SEIU to either “change the AFL-CIO or build something stronger,” probably indicating an interesting time is coming up during the next AFL-CIO convention in July 2005.
* Global strength. Large multinational subcontractors like ARAMARK and Sodexho are gobbling up jobs in hospitals, retail, and hospitality, driving down wages and reducing benefits in the process. Stern called on SEIU members to support efforts to build a global union, expanding on the experience of working with European unions to confront European-based companies that are buying up U.S. security companies.