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Thursday, Apr 15, 2010, 8:31 am

Who Will Lead the SEIU?

BY Lindsay Beyerstein

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Now that Andy Stern has announced his impending retirement as head of the SEIU, the fight to replace him has moved out into the open.

The heir apparent is Anna Burger, SEIU secretary treasurer, and currently Stern's second in command. Stern has groomed her to replace him. Like Stern, Burger has strong ties to the Obama administration. Visitor logs show that she and Stern have been among the most frequent visitors to the White House since Obama took office.

When Stern officially steps aside, Burger will serve as interim president until the Executive Board picks a permanent leader, typically within 30 days.

Burger faces several challengers in her bid to lead the nation's largest and fastest-growing union. International executive vice president Mary Kay Henry has announced that she will seek the top spot. Henry heads up SEIU's healthcare division. Henry has earned a reputation as a shrewd strategist. She is also a founding member of the SEIU's gay and lesbian Lavender Caucus.

Dennis Rivera, the former president of Local 1199 United Healthcare Workers East would be a formidable candidate, if he decides to seek the job. As president, he forged alliances with health care executives to fight funding cuts to hospitals. Rivera went on to serve as Stern's top health care policy adviser.

Burger is generally regarded as the favorite in this race. However, a challenge by Henry and/or Rivera could certainly make things interesting.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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