SEIU: Building a New American Health Care Empire?

Most average Americans know little about the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Some know them as the people in purple shirts that beat up attendees at the town halls this summer. Some equate them to ACORN, or to the Obama administration. While there is some truth to all of the above, there is for certain one title that every voting American should be bestowing upon SEIU, and that is the title of “special interest”.

SEIU Healthcare members group

From 2000 to current, SEIU has spent at least $187,500,000 through combined lobbying, PAC and 527s group donations and expenses on candidates and policy issues – nearly 100% of which went to Democrats and to liberal policy initiatives. Much has been focused on influencing universal health care, as well as other indirectly related health legislation, such as public nutrition, food safety, research, and environmental health – all part of SEIU’s supposed plan for Building a New American Health Care System. Because, in their words, they “will not stop until every man, woman and child has quality, affordable care they can count on.”

So really…why is SEIU so invested in health care?

Because health care is the lifeblood of SEIU. In January of 2007, SEIU announced it would combine over 30 of its local unions to form a National Health Care Division. Years of organizing independent workers, such as home child care and foster care providers, home health aides, and nutritionists had led SEIU to discover untapped potential in what it deemed “health care workers”. With three divisions – Health Care, Public Services and Property Services – SEIU’s members are nurses, dieticians, lab techs, nursing home & home care workers, and child care providers. Others are janitors, cafeteria workers, and other service workers in state/public facilities like hospitals, schools and stadiums. SEIU has made health a key driver to creating these jobs. And they know the best way to protect their lifeblood is to entrench themselves into the legislative / policy-making process on a more permanent level. While two million members in SEIU is impressive, apparently they don’t feel it’s enough to build an empire. So if you’re SEIU, how do you create and maintain even more health care jobs?

Make Health Care your flagship policy issue and build your entire organizing strategy around it.

In November of 2007, SEIU held a joint public session , “High Road Health Care Charrette“, at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. A collaborative effort of SEIU, the Sloan Foundation’s Industry Studies Program, and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (also a partner of Green for All and the Apollo Alliance), the joint session was a discussion on restructuring the health care industry to move more of the private insurance market functions into the government sector, arguing that doing so would increase productivity and drive down cost. But by productivity and cost, SEIU meant their own – increasing the government and health care sectors adds more SEIU members, and transfers the expense of their health and retirement benefits from their own books to the state and federal government instead.


In downloading one of SEIU’s public presentations from that 2007 session, titled “Rx for Successful SEIU Strategy for Health Care“, there were a few subtle points that confirm some suspicions. The issue of health care reform wasn’t just an organizational or social issue for SEIU. Health Care appears to have been a specific target that was carefully selected, massaged, manipulated and developed into a far more strategic policy initiative for SEIU. And all the rhetoric today in 2009 about fighting this fight for the good of all Americans would hardly seem 100% sincere.

While part of the presentation does provide some insightful information, several of the slides contain content that is somewhat revealing of a more selfish strategy. Some of the key takeaways that can be translated from this particular presentation focus on the benefits that SEIU would gain in winning their desired health care legislation:


In it, SEIU’s strategy states that it must make health care coverage its number one priority because:

  • It helps with organizing and securing affordable care for members

    TRANSLATED: If health care is provided and managed by the government, whether at the state and/or the federal level, SEIU members will be guaranteed coverage. And as health care or public services employees, SEIU members will now negotiate directly with the states and federal government as the primary employer and payer, rather than a series of scattered health facilities or independent caregivers that need to be organized. That certainly streamlines the union’s processes, and strengthens and centralizes SEIU power.

  • It reduces pressure on compensation negotiationsTRANSLATED: If the government provides the health insurance for their members, SEIU no longer needs to carry the overhead and administration of those benefits. This certainly reduces pressure on negotiations, relieves SEIU of perception of being too costly, and gives their negotiations more breathing room to justify demanding higher wages.

  • It creates demand for SEIU-provided services TRANSLATED: If government makes health insurance mandatory, it would increase the patient pool, which would in turn astronomically increase the demand for unionized health care workers (SEIU). In addition, if government also legislates health-related behavior and decisions, such as diet, exercise, food services, school & hospital cafeteria menus, vending machine content, restaurant menus, etc., it also creates demand for other SEIU members, such as their dietitians, school nutritionists, and “healthy” cafeteria and food service workers.

  • Strong messaging about consequences of inaction needs to be developed and implementedTRANSLATED: Tie health care to the economy, the environment, and the budget and position it as a crisis. Influence public perception by portraying the current situation as “a health care system that is broken.” Repeatedly demand that health care for every American cannot wait or it will collapse the economy. Insist that the status quo is unacceptable. Work with scholars, partners, and health professionals to collaborate on and spread these talking points until they are taken as unchallenged fact.


  • Candidates must be put on defense about flawed policy; champions must not always be defending

    TRANSLATED: Supporters of government-run health care must be portrayed as serving in the best interests of the economy and of the American people; in contrast, opposers should be accused of supporting the status quo and “the same old ideas”. They should be painted negatively: vilified, politically attacked, portrayed as ignorant and discriminatory, labeled right-wing extremists who distrust our government.

  • Messaging about why this is a sympathetic working Americans issue must effectively be deliveredTRANSLATED: Supporters of government-run health care must create enemies of working Americans: greedy insurance companies, opportunistic doctors, pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and fiscal conservatives. They must position health insurance as a fundamental right. The government must be portrayed as the only option for ensuring fairness in guaranteeing and providing that “right” to the American citizens. Opposers of a government option must be labeled with descriptors such as “unsympathetic”, “immoral” and “without any conscience”.

  • “Where would stronger connections between industry scholars and SEIU help advance interests of both scholars and SEIU?” is a question that session participants are asked to consider.TRANSLATED: Influence public opinion through colleges, universities, research panels and think tanks. The outcome of this study from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work for example, enabled SEIU to try and claim that public school food service workers influence the health of our students, implying that outsourcing the function is bad (and hiring union workers is socially responsible):

“School food service workers are often ‘invisible’ as a factor in student well being”, said Mary McCain, author of the report for the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers. “But their role in food preparation and service often can have more influence on food safety and students’ healthy eating than official directives.”

In this blog post, SEIU also correlates the health of our nation’s “lunch ladies” to the health of our nation’s children, using it as a driver to argue for unionized workers over outsourcing. Or this one, “serving justice – and serving lunch.” (through propaganda, like the video below…)

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SEIU has since been working diligently with scholars and research universities to collaborate on other studies that will produce outcomes that happen to support their views, in their effort to indoctrinate Americans unfamiliar with our nation’s founding principles of a free market economy:

Further reading into other presentations and documents of SEIU’s also brings about familiar language that sounds just eerily similar to that which exists in the current bills in Congress and in all the liberal Democratic government-run health care talking points.

Writings like these marry SEIU’s strategy with the repetitive rhetoric we hear today, and it simply solidifies the notion that SEIU and its sister labor unions of Change to Win are the special interests truly in power in Washington DC. If it’s not SEIU’s lobbyists, PACs or 527s groups peddling a government-run health care plan, perhaps it’s one of the many SEIU insiders working in the White House. Rather than focusing so much attention on the special interests that are the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and other health professionals, Americans would be wise not to take their eyes off of this very special interest that is SEIU.


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