Andrew Stern plans to announce this week that he's stepping down as president of the 2.2-million-member Service Employees International Union.
"He's always supported term limits in the labor movement" and believes it's time for him to move on, said a former labor official familiar with Stern's thinking.
Stern joined SEIU in 1973, when he was a social worker, and has been president of the union since 1996
. His life as president has been tumultuous, encompassing the death of his 13-year-old daughter
, a divorce, and SEIU's secession from the AFL-CIO
in 2005. At that time, Stern and other union presidents formed Change to Win,
saying they wanted more emphasis on organizing and expansion.
SEIU worked hard and spent $60 million
to help elect President Obama in 2008. Stern played a key role in getting the new health care law passed and counts that as a triumph. But last year, when Democrats had a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, Obama failed to press for passage of labor's top priority, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form unions.
Stern is a habitual presence at the White House -- he turned up 22 times, more than anyone else, on a partial list of visitors
during the first six months of Obama's term. And in February, Obama named him to a bipartisan commission on how to reduce the nation's increasingly dangerous deficit
. Its report is due at the end of this year.
Stern has been interested in that subject for some time. "The deficit's a big problem and he likes tackling big problems," the former labor official said.
It's unclear what else Stern, who turns 60 this fall, has in mind for his future. He plans to address resignation "rumors"
later this week at the conclusion of SEIU meetings in Washington.