SEIU's strike-breaking union-buster

In what some call a shameful betrayal of solidarity, powerhouse New York labor leader Dennis Rivera has joined Puerto Rico's governor in a stunning attempt to break the island's largest union. Eight days ago, the Puerto Rico Federation of Teachers, which represents 40,000 teachers, paralyzed island public schools with a strike.

The teachers, who earn top wages of $26,000 a year, had worked for 30 months without a contract. Union leaders were furious that Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila imposed new working conditions last year, decertified the union in January and suspended its dues checkoff.

The governor's draconian actions came after the union's membership voted in November to authorize a strike. Since 1998, Puerto Rico's government workers have not been allowed to strike.

While the clash between the teachers' militant leaders and the government was grabbing the headlines, Rivera was maneuvering to snatch control of the teachers for his Service Employees International Union.

Top labor leaders here and in Puerto Rico say Acevedo Vila gave Rivera, a close friend and a vice president of the 1.6-million member SEIU, a green light last year to oust the teachers federation and replace it with a newly formed labor group, the Union of Puerto Rican Teachers.

That new union is a subsidiary of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association, a group that has long represented principals and supervisors at island public schools.

In January, Rivera and Aida Diaz, president of the principals group, announced that the principals were affiliating with SEIU and their new subsidiary would demand an election to oust the Federation of Teachers.

The principals and supervisors, in effect, created a new union for their subordinates. What they didn't say was that they had the backing of the governor in this union-raiding scheme.

"The governor told Dennis, 'It's essentially yours to take,'" said one source who claims he was at a meeting in late December between top island union leaders, the governor and Rivera.

This week, El Diario-La Prensa reported that Rivera and Acevedo Vila also met in September at a San Juan restaurant to discuss the teachers union as well as possible financial backing by SEIU for the governor.

"That's a total fabrication," Rivera said yesterday of the Diario story. "Did I meet with the governor of Puerto Rico in a public restaurant around August? Yes, I've met with him maybe 20 times. Did I offer him donations in any way, shape or form? Absolutely not."

Rivera also denied any talks with the governor about a campaign by SEIU to become the bargaining agent for Puerto Rico's teachers.

Acevido Vila's office did not respond yesterday to a request for comment. The governor flatly denied to Puerto Rico reporters this week that he attended any meeting with Rivera to discuss financial support.

A few days after Rivera and the principals' union held their press conference, the government of Puerto Rico decertified the teachers federation. Acevedo's education secretary has ruled that the federation will not be permitted to run in any new elections for a union to represent the teachers.

In Puerto Rico, there is a long history of antagonism between independent unions, like the teachers and the electrical workers, and the labor organizations connected to the AFL-CIO or the new Change to Win federation, of which SEIU is a part.

Too many U.S.-based unions operate in an arrogant and colonialist fashion, the independents say.

What they never expected was to see the most influential Puerto Rican labor leader in the U.S. treat them just like those old Washington labor leaders have done for so long.



Anonymous said...

Is it true that " DENNIS RIVERA " goes by a false name because he wants to sound more latino ? He allegedly supresses his "Northern European" last-name and decided to use his mother's maiden name?

Also, is it true that this makes it more difficult to trace his properties or luxurious priviledges he enjoys in places such as Culebra, Puerto Rico, where he allegedly has an incredibly up-scale and multi-million-dollar mansion at the top of a hill? Was this payed for directly or indirectly by honest, good-faith, dues-paying UNION MEMBERS?

If anybody knows about this information, could you please report it here and to the pertinent authorities?


Dennis Rivera traiciona a Puerto Rico ? said...

Will this blog investigate the supposed ownership of mega-mansion attributed to Dennis Rivera in the tropical island paradise of Culebra, Puerto Rico (off the main island of Puerto Rico's Archipielago, just North of the Island of Vieques)?

Will this blog also take note that apparently Dennis Rivera uses a false name in order to sound "more Latino" than his real paternal last-name would suggest. Don't take me wrong, he is a Latino, but he changes his last-name in order to "evoke" his Latino identity.

That, in itself, is not necessarilly wrong. But, if he does it in order to make it more difficult to trace his properties and assets, so as not to be accountable to audits of Union funds, then there might be a problem.

Do you agree?

Silence Dogood said...

If readers want to see follow-up stories on news items, links should be included with the comment. Thank you.

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