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NYC Press Conference Urging SEIU To End Attacks On Puerto Rico Teachers
Date 08/05/25/23:46

SEIU Urged: End Attacks Against Puerto Rico Teachers
Broad Coalition Supports Puerto Rico’s Independent Union

News Conference – Wednesday, May 28 at 10:30 a.m.

A BROAD COALITION of activists will gather Wednesday, May 28 in New York City to express support for Puerto Rico’s embattled teachers and schoolchildren, to protest the decision of SEIU’s leadership to launch an attack on the existing teachers union and to exhort SEIU to cease this activity.

Rafael Feliciano Hernández, President of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR--the Puerto Rican teachers’ union) will be joined at the event by members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC), SEIU, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and other local labor leaders, along with the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), community and religious organizations, local student activists, and concerned relatives of Island students.

WHAT: News Conference Insisting SEIU Cease Attacks on Teachers Union

WHO: Puerto Rican, Labor, Education, Religious and Progressive Activists

WHEN: Wednesday, May 28, 10:30 am
WHERE: Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, 475 Park Avenue South at 32nd Street
SEIU--facing a well-publicized internal battle--begins its Convention in Puerto Rico next week in the shadow of its attempt to take over the Island’s 42,000-member teachers’ union. SEIU’s “raid” comes on the heels of sustained efforts by the Puerto Rico Teachers Union (FMPR)—united with parents and students--to fight against:

* horrific educational conditions
* privatization of schools
* the negative effects of “No Child Left Behind”
* government assaults on democratic school leadership committees
* repressive labor laws
* abysmal salaries—monthly average of $1600 with living costs higher than those in the US.

After nearly three years of working without a contract, the teachers unanimously voted to strike in a mass union meeting of over 7,000 members in November 2007. While negotiations continued, sources report that SEIU leader Dennis Rivera was meeting with Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila.

According to the New York Daily News, the Governor told Rivera that the teachers’ union is “yours to take.” Previously El Diaro-La Prensa reported that Rivera had discussed the teachers union with Acevedo in addition to possible SEIU monetary support for the Governor, who has recently been indicted on corruption charges.

The Puerto Rican government declared the teachers’ strike illegal, based on the vote alone—the actual strike was not called until late February 2008--and moved to decertify FMPR. Almost simultaneously, SEIU announced that the Island’s union of school principals and supervisors was affiliating with SEIU—and would attempt to take over the teachers’ union.

In the aftermath of the 10 day strike that paralyzed the nation’s public schools with unprecedented support and participation from teachers, students and parents, FMPR continues its work as the representative of the Island’s teachers, negotiating with the government over school conditions while fighting for recognition as the bargaining unit.

The Delegate Assembly of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) declared solidarity with the Puerto Rico teachers and voted unanimously to “support the Puerto Rican teachers in their struggle to be treated with dignity.” CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC) resolved to “participate in strike support efforts and solidarity with the striking teachers of the FMPR.” The struggle was discussed at NYC’s Central Labor Council, and the California Federation of Teachers, having sent funds already to support FMPR, plans to urge the AFT to do so as well.

SEIU leadership is in the midst of a tremendous internal struggle with sectors within the union advocating for greater member democracy. As these members engage President Andy Stern and other leaders inside the Convention Hall—ironically to be held in Puerto Rico--FMPR teachers will surely protest what they view as SEIU’s sabotage of the struggle for quality education on their island nation. SEIU leaders’ apparent collusion with the government/employer of teachers in Puerto Rico echoes similar accusations of what critics characterize as a recent trend toward “sweetheart deals” with employers in the private sector on the mainland.

Here in NY, 1199/SEIU, one of the international’s locals with an exemplary reputation as a progressive union, recently launched a series of attempted raids against the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which represents Registered Nurses. These raids occur as NYSNA’s nurses battle hardened employers who are attempting to diminish nurses’ power as they advocate for quality care for their patients, further escalating the inter-union wars on the mainland.

Rather than destabilizing already difficult situations faced by unions--particularly in a nation such as Puerto RIco that has its own particularities--SEIU’s leaders need to focus on their members as they grapple with the difficult questions that face trade unionists today.

Contacts: Normahiram Perez Rodriguez 646-750-2704
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez 718-601-4901

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