Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Puerto Rican Teachers Union and the AFT

Received in an email:

Just to let you know that the government decertified the independent and radical union, the FMPR, of Puerto Rico after its delegate body voted for a strike (but the strike had net yet been
called by the leadership). The agency that decertified the union declared that the officers and its 3,000 delegate body cannot run for union elections for 5 years and that the union can no longer deduct fees. A strike is, nevertheless imminent and, if the FMPR has not been bluffing all along, may be quite militant given that it organized strike committees accross the island that are independent of the union's formal structures (and hence, don't need the central leadership's direct supervision or funding). Meanwhile, most other labor leaders have turned their backs on the FMPR and stated that the FMPR knew it would be decertified. SEIU plans to represent the 40K bargaining unit in upcoming elections.

For those of you following the FMPR saga in Puerto Rico -- the largest union in Puerto Rico, which elected a socialist leadership, voted to dis-affiliate from the AFT both through its delegate assembly and a membership-wide referendum, then won a legal case against being put in Trusteeship by the AFT, thereafter won a decert election led by the Asociacion de Maestros, its main "Puerto Rican" rival -- now has a new challenge. The SEIU is gobbling up the Asociacion de Maestros to seek a second decert. Dennis Rivera, leader of the SEIU, seems to be leading the charge ...

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THE ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF PUERTO RICO AND AN AMERICAN UNION
UNITE.

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera (AP) San Juan -

The Association of Teachers of Puerto Rico and the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU) today decided to initiate a process of
affiliation to obtain a triumph in the union elections of the
Department of Education. The president of the Association, Aida Diaz,
indicated that still she has not reached an agreement on how much they
would have to contribute of the teachers' dues to the SEIU, and
maintained that those negotiations would take shape once the
organization that she directs becomes the exclusive representative of
the Puerto Rican teachers.
...

Diaz indicated that this affiliation had been approved by the
membership of the Association.

The president of the SEIU, Dennis Rivera, assured that "the approach
between both organizations was mutual", and recognized that its union
never made a similar approach to the Federation of Teachers, the
current exclusive representative of the teachers. He reminded that the
present leadership of the Federation dis-affiliated itself from the
American Federation of Teachers (AFT, in English) because, in his
opinion, the "rhetoric" of the Federation "is to attack the
international unions". "We did not see the possibility of an alliance
with them", he declared.

The Federation was affiliated with the AFT from its creation in the
decade of the 1970s, but in September of 2004, the assembly of
delegates decided to dis-affiliate itself. Rivera described the SEIU
as "the most influential political organization" in the United States
and "the fastest growing union in the world".

In terms of dues, Rivera maintained that, "We do not desire to get
great quotas. Initially, we have spoken that the teachers would not
pay dues and would then pay a small per capita". Rivera indicated
that the SEIU has 40,000 members in Puerto Rico, half of them in the
Department of Health and about 17,000 in Education.
...

The Puerto Rican unions have criticized the integration of American
unions in Puerto Rico because they allege that the foreigners arrive
with economic power that is difficult to equal and much less to
surpass....

The alliance between the Association of Teachers and the SEIU presents
a challenge to the Federation of Teachers, which for more than two
years struggles with the government for the approval of the collective
bargaining agreement. The Association of Teachers seeks to become the
"Puerto Rican Teachers Union" and to become the exclusive
representative of the public school teachers, thus replacing the
Federation.

Law 45, which made possible the unionization of the public employees
in 1998, was widely supported by the American unions. It was said
that such support was based on their interest to collect hundreds of
thousands of dollars in dues, and the government passed the law in
exchange for the American unions' support of Puerto Rican statehood in
Washington.

The representatives of the American unions denied such imputation.

Rivera, with his powerful union, was one of the people who most
contributed, at level of the United States, for ousting the U.S. from
Vieques, Puerto Rico.

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