Andrew Stern

Andrew Stern

: Photo from Creative Commons / Author of Photo: Robert Scoble


* Former President of the SEIU, the largest union in the AFL-CIO
* Currently the President Emeritus of SEIU
* Was instructed in the techniques of radical union organizing by the Midwest Academy
* Was an Executive Committee member of the now-defunct America Coming Together, which was funded by George Soros

Young Radical

Andrew Stern was born on November 22, 1950, in West Orange, New Jersey. In the 1960s he gravitated toward radical New Left politics and became a student activist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.A. in Education and Urban Planning in 1971. Also in 1971, Stern dedicated many of his evenings to working for the National Welfare Rights Organization, which adhered to the so-called Cloward-Piven Strategy in an effort to flood the welfare rolls in American cities during the late Sixties and early Seventies.

A Rising Star with the SEIU

After graduating from college, Stern traveled extensively across Europe before taking a job in 1973 as a caseworker in a Philadelphia welfare office that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had recently established. Moreover, he was trained in the tactics of radical activism at the Midwest Academy, created by former Students for a Democratic Society members Paul Booth and Heather Booth.

Rising quickly through SEIU’s ranks, Stern was named to the union’s international executive board in 1980. Four years later, then-SEIU president John Sweeney placed Stern in charge of the union’s organizing and field-service efforts.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Stern was a key organizer of SEIU’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign, which demanded additional benefits for cleaning-and-maintenance workers in Los Angeles. In the course of their activism, Stern and his cohorts used, with Sweeney’s approval, aggressive New Left tactics from the 1960s. For example, they led strikers in blocking access to city streets, storming private meetings, and filing shareholder resolutions.

In a similar spirit, SEIU organizers, in a campaign against a health care corporation, instructed the company’s workers to report as many health- and safety-code violations against the company as they could — thereby, as The New Republic phrased it, “bogging the employer down in inspection hell.”

Helping to Establish the Campaign for America’s Future

In 1996, Stern was one of the original 130 founders of the Campaign for America’s Future.

SEIU President

In the mid-1990s, Stern expected to succeed Sweeney, who in 1995 became president of the AFL-CIO union federation, as SEIU president. But before any election could be held, Sweeney turned the SEIU reins of power over to a top lieutenant who promptly fired Stern. Stern responded by mounting a campaign of his own, and in 1996 he was elected SEIU president.

Leading the SEIU into Partisan Politics

Using the power that came with the position of president, Stern decisively steered SEIU toward partisan politics. At the outset of his tenure, he told SEIU members that he expected “every leader at every level of this union — from the international president to the rank-and-file member — to devote five working days this year to political action” — all in support of the Democratic Party and its political candidates.

In a similar vein, Stern told those attending SEIU’s national convention in June 2004: “We’re going to build the strongest grassroots political voice in North America.” Moreover, he pledged to spend $40 million for more than 2,000 paid organizers to work full-time against President George W. Bush’s re-election bid in 16 key battleground states. That sum was later augmented by an additional $25 million which SEIU spent on voter-registration, voter-education, and get-out-the-vote initiatives. At Stern’s behest, the union also supplied some 50,000 “volunteers” from its member rolls to aid the aforementioned organizers during the days and weeks just prior to Election Day.

The Shadow Party

Stern was a leading figure in the so-called Shadow Party, a term referring to the nationwide network of non-profit activist groups organized by George Soros and others to mobilize resources — money, get-out-the-vote drives, campaign advertising, and policy initiatives — designed to advance Democratic Party agendas, elect Democratic candidates, and push the Democratic Party ever-further towards the left in the early 2000s. In July 2003, Stern — along with fellow Shadow Party leaders Harold Ickes, Jim Jordan, Ellen Malcolm, and Steve Rosenthal — formed America Votes, a national coalition of grassroots, get-out-the-vote organizations. Stern also sat on the executive committee of yet another Shadow Party constituent group, the now-defunct America Coming Together.

Forming the Apollo Alliance

In 2004, Stern and United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard were among a coterie of leftists whom Joel RogersRobert Borosage, and environmental activist Dan Carol approached with a proposal to collaborate on the creation of a new alliance of labor, environmental groups, business leaders, and “social justice” warriors — an entity that would be called the Apollo Alliance.

Using the “Persuasion of Power” to Bully Employers via “Corporate Campaigns”

Stern and his union associates commonly bullied and pressured companies into signing agreements to make SEIU the representative of their employees. When companies resisted joining the union, Stern and his political, media, and activist allies conspired to launch “corporate campaigns” that featured boycotts, picket lines, public demonstrations, literature distribution, letter-writing, and negative-publicity initiatives designed to destroy the reputations of the offenders.

Such tactics were consistent with Stern’s candidly articulated organizing philosophy: “[We] prefer to use the power of persuasion, but if that doesn’t work, we use the persuasion of power.”

Supporting the Democracy Alliance

Under Stern’s leadership as well, SEIU in 2005 was an originalinstitutional investor” in the Democracy Alliance (DA), a funding clearinghouse for leftwing groups — meaning that SEIU agreed to pay a $50,000 annual fee and contribute at least $1 million to DA-backed initiatives, projects, and organizations.

Withdrawing SEIU from the AFL-CIO

In 2005, there was infighting among a number of SEIU’s member unions, as well as between SEIU and John Sweeney’s AFL-CIO. At the heart of the tension was Sweeney’s July 2005 announcement that he planned to divert more than $37 million in AFL-CIO funds away from support for the Democratic Party, and into efforts to recruit and organize more union members.

In response, Stern and four other union leaders formed a group called the New Unity Partnership, which opposed Sweeney’s reelection as AFL-CIO president. Those four other leaders were: (a) Douglas McCarron of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; (b) Bruce Raynor of UNITE; (c) John Wilhelm of the Hotel Employees-Restaurant Employees union; and (d) Terrence O’Sullivan of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

When it became apparent, however, that Sweeney’s reelection was inevitable, Stern announced that SEIU would withdraw from the AFL-CIO union federation.

Change To Win

In 2005, the New Unity Partnership was dissolved and re-formed as the Stern-founded Change To Win (CTW) alliance.

Board Member of Rock The Vote

In 2005, Stern was a board member of Rock The Vote, an organization established in 1992 to engage and build political power for young people in the 18-to-29-year-old age bracket, a demographic typically loyal to Democrats.

Blogging for the Huffington Post

In 2005, Stern began writing blogs for the Huffington Post.

Promoting Leftist Political Agendas: A Country That Works

In 2006, Stern published A Country That Works, a book wherein he identified globalization and the widening economic gap between rich and poor as the primary problems facing the world. Calling for unions to become the dominant vehicles for the promotion of comprehensive social reforms such as wealth redistribution, Stern laid out his proposals for increased taxation on high earners and the implementation of universal healthcare.

“Workers of the World, Unite!”

In a 2006 interview, CBS newswoman Leslie Stahl told Stern: “You like to say, ‘Workers of the world, unite.’ Which sounds, it is Karl Marx. But that’s your, that’s your kind of slogan now.” Stern replied, “Well, the good news is, Communism is dead. But the truth is the phrase means a lot because all of a sudden workers in London and workers in the United States are working for the same employer and the same owners” — i.e., multinational corporations.

Stern’s Enormous Influence on Politics & the Labor Movement

In May 2006, CBS News said: “For his talent at recruiting new members, Stern has been described as the most important labor boss in America.”

In December 2009, Ivan Osorio wrote for the Capital Research Center: “In many ways, Andy Stern has become organized labor’s most powerful and influential labor boss. In terms of public visibility, political influence, activist militancy, and aggressive organizing, Stern and SEIU today are not playing second fiddle to anyone.”

Working to Elect Leftwing Political Candidates

In 2007, Stern helped organize Working For Us (WFU), a political action committee seeking to “elect lawmakers who support a progressive political agenda.”

Collaboration with the Party of European Socialists

In 2007, the Party of European Socialists, in an effort to help leftists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean prepare for the post-President Bush era — communicated with Stern and a number of other influential American leftists via delegations, meetings, and exchanges of information. Among those other leftists were Howard Dean, Barney FrankBernie Sanders, Ben Cardin, John Podesta, and John Sweeney.

Supporter of Mass Illegal Migration

In May 2007, Forbes magazine wrote: “[O]n the immigration issue, Stern is … isolated from the other big power brokers in the labor movement. The SEIU, an immigrant-heavy union that represents janitors and food workers, is fighting to have as many illegal aliens gain legal status as possible. And the sooner the better.” The veracity of that claim was evidenced by Stern’s assertion that: (a) “[s]uccessful reform mandates the most expansive earned legalization provisions that would make eligible the largest number of undocumented persons,” and (b) guest worker programs were insufficient.

Advocate of Using Mass Migration to Change America’s Demographics

On September 27, 2007, Stern, Anna Burger, and John Podesta wrote a very significant email memo to several leftist billionaires — George Soros, Peter Lewis, Herb and Marion Sandler, Steven Bing, John Sperling, and Michael Vachon — a memo which was subsequently hacked and made public by WikiLeaks nine years later. The memo emphasized that the Left should do everything in its power to change the demographics of the American population by any means necessary — especially immigration and naturalization policy — so as to make those demographics more “advantageous” to Democrats. Said the email:

“Ensure that demographics is destiny. An ’emerging progressive majority’ is a realistic possibility in terms of demographic and voting patterns. But it is incomplete in terms of organizing and political work. Women, communities of color, and highly educated professionals are core parts of the progressive coalition. Nationally, and in key battleground states, their influence is growing. Latinos and young voters are quickly solidifying in this coalition as well…. The rapid increase in demographic importance of Latinos will continue for decades. Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation’s largest minority group, and Census projections indicate that by about mid-century Hispanics will be one-quarter of the U.S. population (at which point or shortly thereafter, the United States will become a majority-minority nation).”

Supporter & Ally of Barack Obama

In 2008 Stern supported Barack Obama‘s presidential candidacy. His SEIU spent approximately $60.7 million to help elect Obama to the White House, deploying some 100,000 pro-Obama volunteers during the campaign.

Stern went on to become an immensely influential advisor to the Obama administration. As of October 30, 2009, he had visited the White House 22 times during the 10 months since Obama’s inauguration — more than any other individual.

In 2009 as well, Stern was listed as a signer of the Progressives for Obama website.

In February 2010, President Obama appointed Stern, who was an Independent Advisory Council member of the community organization ACORN, to sit on a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Supporter of Big Government, Wealth Redistribution, Socialism, & Global Government

In September 2008, Stern was a signatory to a statement demanding that a portion of the $700 billion “bailout bill,” enacted by the federal government to preserve the solvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, be used instead to fund various social and economic “justice” provisions such as “extending unemployment and food stamps.” Fellow signers of this statement included Nan AronBrent BlackwelderRobert BorosageJohn CavanaghMaude HurdJohn PodestaJohn SweeneyWade Henderson, and Kevin Zeese.

In an April 2, 2009 speech at the Kennedy School of Government, Stern praised President Obama’s effort to establish a “new American economic plan, led by the government, not necessarily led by the private sector.” Calling for “shared prosperity,” Stern said that “clearly government has has a major opportunity to distribute wealth … through tax policies, through minimum wages, through living wages … [and through] social benefits like Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health insurance.” He also spoke in favor of establishing a “global government.”

In October 2003, Ryan Lizza of The New Republic wrote that SEIU leaders such as Stern “tend to be radical, even socialist.” In 2009, Stern proved the veracity of that description when he derided America’s “market-worshiping, privatizing, deregulating, trickle-down, union-busting, ‘I’ve-got-mine-so-long-sucker’ economy.”

Stern would revisit that theme at a June 7, 2010 conference of the Campaign for America’s Future, where he said: “America needs a 21st century economic plan because we now know the market-worshipping, privatizing, de-regulating, dehumanizing American financial plan has failed and should never be revived, worshipping the market again.”

On December 1, 2011, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Stern titled “China’s Superior Economic Model: The free-market fundamentalist economic model is being thrown onto the trash heap of history.” Some excerpts:

“As Andy Grove [the founder and chairman of Intel] so presciently articulated in the July 1, 2010, issue of Businessweek, the economies of China, Singapore, Germany, Brazil and India have demonstrated ‘that a plan for job creation must be the number-one objective of state economic policy; and that the government must play a strategic role in setting the priorities and arraying the forces of organization necessary to achieve this goal.’

“The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model—so successful in the 20th century—is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century. In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA’s results—a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%—are pathetic.

“This should motivate leaders to rethink, rather than double down on an, empirically failing free-market extremism. As painful and humbling as it may be, America needs to do what a once-dominant business or sports team would do when the tide turns: study the ingredients of its competitors’ success.

“While we debate, Team China rolls on. Our delegation witnessed China’s people-oriented development in Chongqing, a city of 32 million in Western China, which is led by an aggressive and popular Communist Party leader—Bo Xilai. A skyline of cranes are building roughly 1.5 million square feet of usable floor space daily—including, our delegation was told, 700,000 units of public housing annually.

“Meanwhile, the Chinese government can boast that it has established in Western China an economic zone for cloud computing and automotive and aerospace production resulting in 12.5% annual growth and 49% growth in annual tax revenue, with wages rising more than 10% a year.

“For those of us who love this country and believe America has every asset it needs to remain the No. 1 economic engine of the world, it is troubling that we have no plan—and substitute a demonization of government and worship of the free market at a historical moment that requires a rethinking of both those beliefs.”

The Organizers’ Forum & Social Policy Magazine

As of January 2010, Stern was a member of the Board of Directors of The Organizers’ Forum, whose aim was to improve the skills and strategies employed by leftwing community and labor organizers.

As of January 2010 as well, Stern was also a member of Social Policy magazine’s Organizers’ Forum Board, along with such notables as Deepak Bhargava and Drummond Pike.

SEIU’s Enormous Growth Under Stern’s Leadership

During his 14-year tenure as SEIU’s president, Stern was instrumental in making it the fastest-growing union in the United States. The union gained more than a million new members under his leadership, bringing its total membership to 2.2 million.

Stern’s Abrupt Retirement from the SEIU, Amid Scandals

On April 12, 2010 — two years before the scheduled end of his term as SEIU president — Stern abruptly announced that he was stepping down from that post. It was speculated that his decision may have been related to an ongoing probe by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department, which were investigating a $175,000 advance that the Simon & Schuster publishing company had given Stern for his 2006 book, A Country That Works. At issue was the fact that while Stern had personally pocketed the entire advance payment, SEIU had spent thousands of dollars — derived from union dues — to fact-check and promote the book. Moreover, the union and its locals had purchased — again, with union dues they had collected — thousands of copies of the book after it was published.

Yet another cloud of scandal hanging over Stern was an allegation that in 2007 he had illegally played a role in approving the use of SEIU funds for paying former SEIU official Alejandro Stephens’ salary for a “no-show” job. As CBS News reported in September 2020:

“Federal officials are also asking questions about how Stern and union officials approved payments to Alejandro Stephens, former president of the SEIU local that represents Los Angeles County government workers, according to the people who were interviewed.

“The FBI has been investigating Stephens for more than a year. Earlier this month, he was sentenced in federal court this month to four months in jail and three months’ home confinement after pleading guilty to stealing $52,000 from a voter outreach program.

“Stern has not been linked to any of the charges resulting in Stephens’ guilty plea. But federal agents are seeking details about the time in 2007 when Stephens’ local was merged into a larger SEIU local and he lost his post as president. The SEIU offered Stephens a generous severance package and a new job as a $75,000-a-year consultant to the SEIU California State Council.

“[SEIU spokeswoman Michelle] Ringuette said the union arranged for Stephens to perform consulting work for the council and agreed to reimburse the council for his annual salary. But she said the union later discovered Stephens wasn’t actually doing any work.

“Federal law prohibits labor unions from creating what amounts to ‘no-show’ jobs that pay someone for work they do not perform.

“Stephens’ attorney, Roger Rosen, said his client has not cooperated with federal officials and has no plans to in the future.”

SEIU’s President Emeritus

After Stern retired, the SEIU honored him with the title of President Emeritus.

Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown

In July 2010, Stern accepted a position as a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, effective August 1.

Board Member with SIGA Technologies

Also in July 2010, Stern joined the board of directors of SIGA Technologies, Inc., a company specializing in the development of pharmaceutical agents to combat biological-warfare pathogens.

Additional Information

Stern once served a stint on the board of directors of the Economic Policy Institute.

Additional Resources:

Organization Man: How Andrew Stern Plans to Transform the Union Movement
By Ivan Osorio
December 2009

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