Since a couple of thoughtful participants in this thread have stated a desire for a deeper and perhaps cooler discussion, I decided I'll give it a try.
Trying to step back a bit to the underlying principles at work and away from the heat of particular events. It's clear, that every event looks very different from different angles.
There is a general prejudice in the labor movement against "raiding". There is a commonly held belief - or at least lip service to a belief - that once a given union has organized a group of workers, it is beyond the pale for another union to interfere in that relationship. It is also a fact that nearly every union in existance has raided at some time in their history. And, since we are all supposed to believe that raids are bad, every union that raids feels the need to justify it in various ways. Presumably, some of the justifications are more sincere than others, but that is also in the eye of the beholder.
There is an alternate belief here and there ( more people will say this privately than publicly): that prohibitions on raids serve the needs of unions as institutions, but not necessarily those of workers. This school of thought would say that workers are not property and that a group of workers who desire to leave their union for one that serves their needs better should be free to do so and that no-raid agreements limit their freedom to do so. I am not speaking here for either point of view - merely pointing out that both points of view exist.
The minority who don't think raids are so bad would tend to feel that the competition among unions would improve the breed in a sense - keep unions from becoming complacent, force them to better serve their members.
The majority, who feel that raids are bad, would say that raiding makes it impossible for unions to work together in the larger interest of workers and that the raiding takes up energy that should be used for the common good.
Each of these point of view has some value.
Now, cutting a little bit closer to home, where it is harder to be truly objective, but I'll try:
CNA and SEIU have philosophies that diverge on two main points, aside from any personality or numbers issues.
those points are basically:
1. RN vs all workers.
2. standards vs numbers.
I understand one point of view from the inside out and the other only as an observer, so it's hard to do equal justice to both, but let's see if I can try.
On the first point, CNA belives that, while all workers are valued and all workers should be in unions, the Registered Nurse has a unique role in the system and should speak with a unique voice. We are the only members of the team that are commanded, both by the traditions of our profession and by our nurse practice act (in California at least) to act as patient advocates. We also have a role in the public trust that is unique. Being able to speak with the undiluted voice of the registered nurse, unmixed with other points of view, gives us an authority that has served us and the public very well in a series of political fights. We have been able, in many places, to work in close concert with other unions, including SEIU's California locals, to organize other workers and to support each other. But by being separate, we can go the way that our professional duty demands, without some of the political considerations we would have if we represented many different job descriptions.
SEIU, on the other hand, believes in the strength of numbers and believes that having all the workers in a facility under the same union umbrella is the best way.
One could no doubt cite examples to support both viewpoints.
On standards, SEIU leaders have generally stated something like this point of view:
That union density - numbers - both within an area and within an industry are the key to strength. They have also stated that it is worth it to give up some traditional standards and ideals in order to achieve growth, with the hope/belief that once the growth/numbers have been achieved the strength that comes with the numbers will bring back some of what was sacrificed in the short term. This has taken the form, for example, of giving up various aspects of worker/union rights in exchange for organizing agreements with employers: the right to strike, the right to bargain over wage rates in at least one instance, the right to bargain for improved health benfits or retirement benefits in others. In some instances, partnerships are formed in which the union agrees to support the employer's legislative agenda or use its political power to help relieve regulatory "burdens" on the employer. What the union asks in return, is an easier path to organizing, leading to greater growth, ultimately, in theory, leading to greater union power, and eventually, in theory, to a better life for the workers. SEIU leaders, notably international president Andrew Stern, have stated that unions need to align their interest with that of employers, show employers how the union can "add value" and abandon the old model of the boss as the enemy of the worker.
CNA/NNOC, by contrast, tends to believe that standards, once surrendered, do not usually come back. While we have grown quite fast, we have generally done it without the need to sacrifice standards. In particular, we believe that the RN role as patient advocate and public advocate can never be sacrificed to make agreements in the name of growth. We have certainly made use of neutrality agreements with employers, but generally have won those agreements at the bargaining table, rather than giving up things we think are important to win them. We think that long term strength, and even long term growth, come from: winning good enough contracts to give employees a reason to organize, giving workers the greatest possible role and the truest possible union democracy, and aligning our interest with the interest of the public believing, as we do, that what is good for the patient and the public and what is good for the nurse are nearly always the same. CNA leaders believe that, while the interest of the employer and the interest of the worker can sometimes run together, they more often are different and a union - especially a union representing nurses - can never subordinate the nurses obligation to the patient to the interest of the employer.
that's my best effort for the moment. I am leaving for 3 week vacation out of the US in a couple days, so I won't be able to stick around for an extended exchange, which I rather regret. Not enough to stay home, though.
Hopefully others will pick up the thread.