SEIU Local 73 placed under trusteeship
Chicago, IL – On the morning of Aug. 3, International President Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) placed SEIU Local 73 in trusteeship. This immediately removed from office the principal officers of the local, including President Christine Boardman and Secretary Treasurer Matt Brandon. Henry cited the “dysfunctional” relationship between Boardman and Brandon as the main reason for her action.
SEIU Local 73 is a public sector union in Illinois and Northern Indiana representing 28,000 workers. It has a proud history of fighting for its members, including recent strikes that took place at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prominent members of Local 73 include Artemio Arreola, the janitor who played a leading role in the mega-marches for immigrant rights that started in Chicago in 2006. Local 73 was also among the first major unions in Chicago to come out in support of community control of the police, backing legislation to create an elected, civilian police accountability council (CPAC).
Unfortunately, in recent years, the local has become best known as the union that backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel even when he had become discredited in front of the city after his role in the cover-up of the murder of Laquan McDonald. 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by the racist murderer, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, in October 2014. Rahm made sure the video of the killing wasn’t revealed until after he was safely re-elected in April 2015.
Deals with the mayor
The legacy of Local 73’s support for Emanuel began when the Chicago Teachers Union drew a line in the sand with the mayor. The CTU had elected a reform leadership in 2010. When Emanuel became mayor in 2011, he declared an agenda of austerity for the people of the city, attacking social services and public education. The CTU, in a model of class struggle unionism, took him head on.
Local 73 continued to back Emanuel, undercutting the CTU and other public sector unions. In 2014 when Emanuel announced his re-election plan, Local 73’s Brandon offered a $25,000 contribution to Emanuel. According to Joe Iosbaker, rank-and-file member of the local and co-chair of the Joint Bargaining Committee at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Secretary Treasurer Brandon did that without any democratic discussion with the membership of Local 73.” Iosbaker also pointed out, “President Boardman should have refused to sign the check, but she didn’t.”
When SEIU in Illinois debated endorsements for mayor in the 2015 elections, Brandon was outspoken in support of Emanuel as well. The contribution and Brandon’s advocacy for Emanuel were all over the news.
In an incident even more directly going against the interests of Local 73 members, in 2015 Brandon joined an effort by Emanuel to diminish the benefits of retired and current Local 73 members. This was revealed in charges brought by Boardman against Brandon in July, 2016.
Brandon runs to the defense of Rahm
In an interview with Boardman, Fight Back! learned the full extent of Brandon’s support for the mayor. Even after Emanuel was exposed for covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald, Brandon continued to offer backing to his mayor. In early December 2015, Boardman explained, “Matt requested vacation days to go meet with the mayor. He called me from the mayor’s office to say he was thinking of appearing with Rahm in a press conference to show his support.” Her next words? “Are you an idiot? Our members want Emanuel out of office!” As a result, Brandon decided not to appear in the press conference.
In August of 2015, the Local 73 executive board and general membership meetings both endorsed a proposal to support community control of the Chicago police department. Because of the crisis of police crimes against civilians in Chicago, Local 73 had backed the CPAC legislation to hold the police accountable. Union members agreed to support CPAC to take power to supervise the police out of the hands of the mayor.
According to Joe Iosbaker, “Calling for community control of the police is because we don’t believe that the mayor has our interests at heart. But in December, when the people of Chicago woke up to the lies they were told by Emanuel, at that very moment Brandon rushes to provide him support. This is a betrayal of the members who elected him.”