The two-million-member union that was a driving force behind the Fight for $15 minimum wage protests is planning to cut its internal budgets by 30% in anticipation of the Donald Trump administration, according to an internal memo.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president, Mary Kay Henry, has told staff 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” and that cuts would start immediately, with a 10% budget reduction by this Saturday. News of the 14 December internal memo was first reported by Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Trump’s triumph shocked the union. In the memo, obtained by the Guardian, Henry said “the outcome of the November 2016 election results” had made a it necessary to “dramatically rethink” the SEIU’s plans for expansion.
In an emailed statement, an SEIU spokeswoman, Sahar Wali, told the Guardian that the planned cuts were necessary “as we prepare to fight back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government”. Wali said that SEIU was looking for “financial refinements to implement” that would best allow the SEIU to grow.
“Working families are fed up with not being able to improve their families’ lives no matter how hard or how long they work while greedy corporations and self-interested politicians continue to rig our economy and political system,” Wali wrote.
Last month the SEIU president joined the New York state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and others in denouncing Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Andy Puzder. Puzder is the CEO of the restaurant group that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, two fast-food chains; he has broadly criticized minimum wage increases and advocated for automating jobs currently performed by low-income workers.
The Fight for $15 campaign has achieved success in California and New York, and it has cut into the margins of the fast-food industry from which Puzder hails. But there are other threats to the union, notably from rightwing legislatures pushing anti-labor laws.
Anti-labor activists managed to have a National Right-to-Work bill, sponsored by the Kentucky senator Rand Paul, introduced in February last year. It was referred to committee. Under a Trump administration and with Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, SEIU and others fear the return of a similar bill, which would eliminate unions by preventing them from charging dues or requiring membership.