Masters says Stern leaves now to ensure that new leadership is well in place to help Democrats in the fall elections. "If his union is going to play as effective a role as he wants, he would want somebody else at the helm to begin to take over the reins," Masters says.
Jim Trivisonno, president of Detroit-based IRI Consultants to Management, Inc., says Stern, with his Ivy League education, high articulation, and global perspective, was extremely effective, even though he didn't fit the classic image of the rough-and-tumble labor leader. "He will be difficult to replace," Trivisonno says. "From a strict leadership standpoint, folks like Stern don't come around very often and he accomplished a lot of organized labor generally and SEIU specifically."
Stern did not say exactly when he would leave. Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger will serve for 30 days after Stern's departure, when a new president will be elected by the SEIU board to finish Stern's term.
"Some of the people being mentioned to replace him are probably capable, but they will definitely have a different style—some more aggressive, others not," Trivisonno says. "But the SEUI has a pretty good infrastructure and they are focused on healthcare, which is a right area for organized unions."
It's hard for me to imagine that someone like Stern—who joined the union as a 22-year-old and worked his entire life to make it the leading voice in organized labor—would suddenly walk away from his job two years before his term expires—just as the union appeared poised to enjoy the fruits of its labor. We are talking about the most powerful person in organized labor, the head of an organization representing 2.2 million people. It has been my experience–after covering politics for more than two decades—that people in power do not readily give up that power unless someone or something is shoving them out the door.
Burn out? Sorry, I don't buy it.