SEIU working against Democrats, forming third party in North Carolina

Apparently inspired by certain Democrats voting against the health insurance reform, the Service Employees International Union – a union representing over 2 million workers – is surprisingly planning to work against Democrats this election season.

Perhaps the strongest challenge to Democrats, if not the Democratic establishment itself, will be in North Carolina.  The national SEIU is working with the State Employees Association of North Carolina, its state affiliate, to form the North Carolina First Party.

The only text on the party’s website says,

For too long parties and politicians in Washington have worked more for their own political self interest, or worse, corporate special interests, instead of the hard working families of North Carolina.

That’s why members of progressive groups across North Carolina, including the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began work to form North Carolina First to ensure that politicians put middle class families first and not their own special interests.

North Carolina First is on the ground talking to voters. Right now, North Carolina First is gathering signatures to determine whether toqualify as a state party – to give working families the ability to choose a candidate that will fight for their interests – or to identify Congressional candidates who will stay accountable to the needs of working families not Washington’s special interests.

And confirming the thought that this is not to challenge the Democratic Party itself, but to challenge individual Democrats who voted against the health insurance bill, is Jim Morrill of Campaign Tracker:

Spokesman Greg Rideout said they have about 10,000 of the 80,000 or so required signatures. He described the effort as an alternative for disgruntled progressives…

Rideout, a former aide in the N.C. Justice Department, said the movement isn’t aimed at any particular person or party. But if the effort does manage to get on the ballot, expect candidates in U.S. House races in Districts 7, 8 and 11. They’re the homes of the three Democratic members of Congress who voted against their party’s health care bill.

And in New York, SEIU is allying itself with the Working Families Party and against a Democratic Congressman who voted against the bill, Michael Arcuri.  The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports:

The state Working Families Party and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union announced Friday they will be withdrawing support of Arcuri for the November election…

The union has 275,000 members in the state and several thousand in the district.

John Furman, a member of the state Working Families Party Committee, said the party also is recruiting candidates and having preliminary conversations because of concern that Arcuri is siding with the insurance industry instead of his constituents.

“We feel it’s a litmus test for candidates to show that they do represent progressive, core values,” Furman said of the health care vote…

In 2008, Arcuri received 9,454 votes on the Working Families Party line and defeated Hanna by 9,919 votes, party spokesman Dan Levitan has said…

On Friday, the New York State AFL-CIO union, which represents more than 2½ million people in the state, also sent Arcuri a letter signed by more than 20 labor leaders from across the state expressing their sense of betrayal at his decision to vote against the health care bill.

Already, a few progressives are doubting SEIU’s sincerity.  At Firedoglake, David Dayen writes in a post titled “Wake Me When SEIU’s ‘North Carolina First Party’ Runs a Candidate:”

I’ve been saying for a while now that the vaunted “accountability moment” that labor and Democratic allies will run against those in the caucus who voted against health care is a mirage. I don’t know how many examples people need. First the primary challenger to Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin was talked out of the race, then Jason Altmire’s challenger realized he waited too long to make a serious run, then Stephen Lynch’s possible primary disintegrated…

SEIU isn’t really at war with the Obama Administration. Andy Stern was just appointed to the President’s deficit commission. They may have problems with some of the Blue Dogs in North Carolina, to be sure. But the third party route is just destined to be squelched by national Democrats.

This analysis of the union’s intentions, however, should be taken with a grain of salt.  Later in the piece Dayen advocates a strategy of challenging Blue Dog Democrats in the primary rather than as independents in the general election.  Also, Dayen incorrectly asserts that SEIU is challenging the Obama Administration, when they actually supported President Obama’s health plan and are running candiates against people who voted “no” on the health bill.

It remains to be seen whether SEIU is sincere or not, whether candidates will emerge to challenge these Democratic Congresspeople or not.  In any case, it’s a situation worth watching.