...without it, fair play is impossible.
A few members of Sal Rosselli’s own local, United Healthcare Workers-West, have brought charges against him and his administration, accusing them of assorted acts of retaliation against supporters of Andy Stern, international president of the Service Employees International Union. The complainants fear that they can never get a fair trial in their own local because the local is controlled by Rosselli, and he is embroiled in an intense internal union battle with Stern. They ask Stern to use his power as international president to bypass the local trial process, assume original jurisdiction, and proceed with a trial under international auspices. Stern has agreed. And so the trial of Rosselli will proceed under the aegis of Stern, his bitter enemy.
But if Rosselli’s critics can’t get a fair trial under Rosselli, how can Rosselli be guaranteed a fair trial under Stern?
Someone has written that neither Stern nor Rosselli is an angel. True, angels are so few. The difference here, however, is that one non-angel has the overwhelming union constitutional power to damage the other. But not vice versa.
It was already clear before the recent SEIU convention. It obvious now: The SEIU needs a public review board.
The SEIU does not have to invent the wheel. The United Auto Workers has had a public review board for fifty years. The board is a kind of Supreme Court within the union to guarantee due process. It has the authority to overturn disciplinary decisions of the union’s top international executive board and president. Most important of all, it is composed of independent persons, pro-labor, civil libertarians, eminent in their own right in their own professions. And because they are independent and outside the union power structure, not beholden to the union establishment, the board and its members serve as an important deterrent to arbitrary authoritarianism.
Which is precisely what the SEIU needs to protect union democracy at this point in its history where two sides are bitterly pitted against each other. We have no way of knowing how the newest charges against Rosselli will end. We do know that the need to defend due process will continue. The SEIU needs an impartial public review board, not simply to assure genuine due process for Rosselli, but to protect internal union democracy for all.