SEIU President Andy Stern released a video on his union's website Wednesday officially announcing that he is leaving the union, and dismissing some of the persistent rumors about his departure.
Looking straight into the camera, the longtime labor leader and close Obama ally declares: "There is a time to learn, a time to lead, and then there is a time to leave. And shortly it will be my time to end my SEIU journey."
The reasons for departure, he adds, are strictly personal. Noting that the union had grown into a major political force and a coveted endorser for any political candidate, he hints (as others close to him have as well) that he didn't want to follow in the shoes of his predecessor, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.
"There is never a perfect time for any long-term leader to depart or for organizations to make transitions," he says. "I've seen too many leaders stay on for too long. I have no intention of being one of them."
Shifting towards rumors that he is suffering from poor health, embroiled in a soon-to-be-exposed scandal, or wary of his organization's institutional soundness, Stern offers the following:
"I've never been healthier. I've been vetted before being named to the president's fiscal commission, and I leave the job I love by choice. SEIU members helped elect a great president and we just helped passed historic health care reform. We have a solid plan to grow stronger and SEIU'S local leadership is not only the most experienced but also the most diverse in labor's history."
Rather, the time had come, he says, to focus more on the personal aspects of his life. The loss of his then 13-year-old daughter Cassie in 2002 still weighs on his mind. And the demands of the job "have left me at times not paying enough attention to the personal dimensions of my life." In his absence, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger will assume the role of interim-president until the International Executive Board (IEB) votes on a successor. An election will be held within 30 days.
The video is a personal tome of sorts from a labor leader whose bold gambits, and provocative tactics will surely be debated for many years to come. And in typical Stern fashion, it includes an obligatory push for more organization and mobilization. Above the video on the SEIU webpage includes the following note:
"Watch the video below and share your appreciation for Andy using the form to the left. You can share your thoughts on your mobile device by texting ANDY and your message to 787753."