Stern was widely expected to support the anticipated candidacy of John L. Wilhelm, vice-president of UNITE HERE, for AFL-CIO president (challenging Sweeney) in 2005; after the AFL-CIO split this came to nothing.
Born in West Orange, New Jersey, Stern was a student leftist in the 1960s. He earned a B.A. in education and urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Stern began his career as a social worker and SEIU member in 1973, eventually being elected president of his Pennsylvania local. In 1980, he was elected to the union's executive board, and in 1984 then-president Sweeney put him in charge of its organizing efforts.
Stern has also embraced political organizing via the Internet in the wake of the Howard Dean campaign, which his union endorsed; he has started his own blog as well as founding Purple Ocean, an online membership organization affiliated with the SEIU. In fall of 2005, he launched an online contest called Since Sliced Bread that claims to award $100,000 for the best new economic idea in America.
Since May 2005, he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.
Currently, Stern is involved in a controversy over the future direction of SEIU, because he believes that union density (the percentage of the workforce covered by collective bargaining contracts) should be the primary goal of SEIU - getting more workers organized into SEIU. But critics of this perspective argue that Stern's method of doing this are undemocratic. They point to the proposed terms of the new contracts - 20-year deals that forbid striking and allow grievances and arbitrations only over terminations (excluding wage rates, hours, working conditions, leave time, sexual harassment, etc).
Most significant for critics is most workers in a bargaining unit would not get a vote on such contracts, only a few people that would be chosen to bargain for them. One union that has been very vocal about Stern's proposed changes in negotiations is [[SEIU UHW]], a California local headed by Sal Rosselli, the second largest in the country. SEIU UHW has charged Stern with wanting to dispense with union democracy in favor of fast growth that leaves union members without a voice in their workplaces and their collective bargaining contracts. The issue of union democracy is expected to a major point of contention at the SEIU convention in June 2008.
Stern has a son, Matt. His daughter, Cassie, died in 2002. Stern and his wife, Jane Perkins, subsequently divorced.
A Discussion With One of the Most Powerful Labor Leaders in America, Andy Stern; Ben Kingsley Talking About His New Movie `You Kill Me`
Jun 22, 2007; CHARLIE ROSE: Welcome to the broadcast. Tonight, one of the most powerful labor leaders in America, Andy Stern. (BEGIN VIDEO...