SEIU’s Stern: Contra Sorkin, ‘Unionized Companies Are Driving Force In Our Economy’

June 3, 2009 12:17 p.m.

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union answers Andrew Ross Sorkin’s question with a question of his own. “Unionized companies are a driving force in our economy, from Kaiser Permanente to Securitas,” Stern said in a statement to TPMDC.

The bigger question this country is really asking right now is how do we define a successful company? Is it a company that turns a profit by driving down employee wages successful? Is cutting off benefits or putting people out of work to improve the bottom line for shareholders a business model we as Americans want to embrace? Are we going to embrace the Wal-Mart model as the standard of success, or are we going to raise the bar and rebuild the middle class in this country?

We think it’s time to have a serious national discussion about what we want the future of our economy to look like–and the voices of women and men who work are critical to that conversation. That’s why we’re supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill to help create an economy in which companies succeed based on the quality of their services, not on their willingness to exploit or silence workers.

Late update: Here’s a comment from Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

The ignorance displayed on today’s Morning Joe show should be as embarrassing to MSNBC and the New York Times as it is insulting to the working men and women who build this country. It’s clear that American companies can and do prosper while also providing good jobs for workers and our economy.

The real question is whether a company whose business model is based on cutting paychecks and benefits can be called successful? In fact, when a company passes responsibilities off to the public in order to increase profits and pay bigger bonuses, it’s really doing more harm than good. A quick roll call of non-union companies, ones that are not only unsuccessful but which crashed our entire economy – Citibank, Bank of America, AIG, Bear Stearns and basically all of the corporate homebuilders – come to mind.

Thematically, that sort of combines what Nancy Mills at AFL-CIO told me with what Stern said in his statement–a clever pivot from the question Sorkin asked to the one addresses the grievances of workers.

Late, late update: You can read Sorkin’s apology here.

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