Friday, November 21, 2008

Come Hear a Union President who Does Organize the Teachers!

I was going to go to the Teachers Unite event tonight in Brooklyn and then to Leonie's mayoral control event at Judson Church until I was reminded of this event. Since this is right near the Judson Church I am checking them both out.

The situation in Puerto Rico is very important and I really need to write more about it. The FMPR disaffiliated from the AFT years ago, held a strike, had the governor declare them as no longer the bargaining agent, has SEUI come in and try to undermine them, beat them back, and there's lots more. I had a bunch of posts about them a few months ago with a lot of historical context using some of the stuff from Mike Antonucci's EIA which followed the FMPR/AFT story from its earliest stages. Just search this blog for FMPR to find them.

Tonight at 6:30- 9:30, the leader of the FMPR, Rafael Feliciano, will be speaking at NYU (Silver Bldg, 50 Washington Sq. Room 714. For those who have not heard Rafael Feliciano speak, I would encourage everyone to attend. He is the kind of union leader that builds support and activists from the bottom up. Here in the US we need to hear how that is possible since few of our union leaders follow this path. ICE's Lisa North, chapter leader at PS 3K will also be speaking.

Recently retired NYC teacher Angel Gonzalez has been spearheading the organizing effort here in NYC.

Excerpts selected from an article by Brian Cruz, a rank-and-file member of SEIU Local 1021 in the Bay Area. Oct 31, 2008

PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers in Puerto Rico overwhelmingly voted October 23 to reject representation by the Puerto Rico Teachers Union (SPM)--a union affiliated with the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Those who voted "no" to the SPM weren't voting against having a union, however. In effect, they were voting in favor of their current union, the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which was not allowed on the ballot. The 42-year-old FMPR previously had exclusive rights to represent the teachers. However, the FMPR was decertified by an anti-labor government in January 2008 for voting to go on strike. This created an opening for the SEIU to push its affiliate, the SPM.

The cards seemed stacked against the FMPR. Under Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vilá of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the Puerto Rican government had been unwilling to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers. The FMPR sensed an impasse and decided strike for better wages, better conditions at schools for both teachers and students, and a halt to the privatization of the schools through the expansion of charter schools. However, the island's Law 45 prohibits public workers from striking, so the government decertified the FMPR even before the strike began in early February.

More than just a viciously anti-union government was at play here. In the New York Daily News, columnist Juan Gonzalez revealed that Vilá and Dennis Rivera, a top leader of SEIU, had arranged a deal in which SEIU would contribute to Vilá's campaign for re-election if Vilá would support SEIU's attempts to gain representation.

More about the victory at norms notes.

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