SEIU opens doors to individual members

WASHINGTON (PAI)–The Service Employees Union will start in June to recruit individuals who want to join the union but who don’t have a contract. The “Fight for the Future” campaign will “take the fight for our families’ economic future to the next level,” said President Andrew Stern in a “blog” on SEIU’s website in May.

“To have a real chance to win, SEIU must open its doors, change its rules and find ways to formally and officially link up with millions of you who are not SEIU members,” he explained. SEIU, the AFL-CIO’s largest union, had 1,387,500 members in 2003, the latest year available, AFL-CIO figures show. It gained 75,000 over the prior year and has led the federation in increasing its numbers over the last five years. Only the Teachers union had similar increases.

Stern calls the new drive “open sourcing” the union movement. The AFL-CIO’s drive for similar individual memberships has yet to produce any hard data.

Under the plan, new SEIU individual members would get a membership card and “opportunities to participate with like-minded people” in mobilizations and activism around issues such as workers’ rights, civil rights and justice on the job.

“Since you wouldn’t get all the benefits of being a full member of SEIU – having an 800-pound gorilla fight for you on the job, health benefits, etc. – you would only pay a nominal annual member fee” of $10-$25, Stern said.

Stern did not say how much of a role such new members would have in deciding union activities, though he pledged they “would have a chance to have a real say in the shape and direction” of the broader movement for worker justice.

He also posed questions for fellow bloggers on how to grow the SEIU through new memberships without “cannibalizing all the great groups already out there,” which share the union’s goals in separate fields.