Confrontation outside SEIU convention in Puerto Rico
Published Jun 4, 2008 11:31 PM
As thousands of delegates and guests poured into the quadrennial convention of
the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and as the Democratic Party
primary contest between Sens. Obama and Clinton was taking place, a drama far
more meaningful to the workers of Puerto Rico took the stage in San Juan on May
31. Hundreds of members of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico
(FMPR), a militant, independent union of teachers, in a courageous display of
creative and tactical skills, broke through metal barricades, scores of armed
police and SEIU staffers.
FMPR President Rafael Feliciano Hernández gave a series of press
interviews and exchanged views with SEIU delegates. In an on-the-scene
telephone interview with a Workers World supporter of FMPR he said, “In
the local newspapers and the TV news outlets, the protests of the FMPR and the
solidarity expression of the [SEIU] delegates were the primary news.”
Feliciano on the
Later, Feliciano commented on an evening workshop: “About 15 SEIU
delegates and some 40 militant teachers came. The discussion was extraordinary.
Solidarity was paramount and we shared how the bureaucratic, corrupt leadership
hurts all of us. Moreover, we defined bridges of communication for future
The underlying lesson unfolding is the failure of business unionism—top
down, opportunistic, class-collaborationist leaders. The FMPR is structured
from below. FMPR President Feliciano earns $2,600 a month, no more than the
highest paid teacher. He is limited to two consecutive terms. Dues are based on
affordability. Most important, the FMPR is dedicated to raising class
consciousness, and to view management/the capitalist government as
In a document—“Analysis of the Puerto Rico Teachers Strike of
2008”—Luis Ángel Torres Torres, FMPR secretary of education,
analyzes the lessons of the ten-day strike. His insights show how important the
trade unions are as instruments of progressive change that elevate the role of
the multinational workers/teachers. The document concludes, “There is no
triumph without struggle, and no struggle without sacrifice.”
Many feel strongly that when the convention is over, the FMPR will have made
many new friends and will be stronger as they fight the Puerto Rican government
and SEIU-Stern leadership’s attempt to steal their members.
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