ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

November 21, 2008

2008.11.21: Corrected address for today’s forum on union democracy and quality education

Filed under: Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 1:29 pm

From: Herschel, Lucy
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 1:29 PM
To: 1199 Members
Subject: Corrected address for today’s forum on union democracy and quality education

I sent this out before, but the address was a little off, apparently.  I just got this corrected one today



Friday, Nov. 21, 6:30-9:30pm

NYU SILVER Center – ROOM 714


Corner of Washington Place-on the east side of Washington Square Park.

One block north of W. 4 St.

One block south of Astor Place

3 blocks west of Broadway (#6 to Astor Place)

Several blocks east of 6th Ave. (trains: A, D, E, etc. to W. 4 St./Washington Square)


  • · Rafael Feliciano, FMPR President
  • · Mark Brenner, Labor Notes
  • · Lisa North, ICE (Independent Community of Educators)-UFT
  • · Marvin Holland, TWU (Transit Workers Union) Local 100 R&F Activist

A powerful coalition consisting of the Government, Boss, Courts–and a US Union that spent millions–couldn’t defeat the teachers of Puerto Rico, whose union stood firm defending quality public education, labor justice and union democracy in a stunning election victory in October of 2008.

What are the implications for other labor activists and the US Labor Movement as a whole?

Sponsored by: Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico/FMPR Support Committee-NY

some background:

Puerto Rico teachers defeat SEIU raid

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. The plan for the raid was for Vilá to refuse to negotiate, and then let SEIU run in a representation election.  The vehicle for this plan would be the Teachers Association of Puerto Rico (AMPR), which associated with SEIU in late 2007.  AMPR is an organization of administrators of the school system, such as principals and regional directors. As such, it can’t represent teachers under Law 45, and in practice, never represents the interests of actual teachers in work disputes. So AMPR created SPM, whose general secretary and main spokesperson, Aida Diáz, is also president of AMPR.

While FMPR won widespread support for its strike, AMPR moved to undermine the struggle. It denounced FMPR for striking, then ran uncontested, via SPM and aided by staff and resources of SEIU, for exclusive representation rights.  At first, FMPR challenged the decision that it wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the election on the grounds that Law 45 had no provision prohibiting decertified unions from participating. FMPR leaders submitted 12,000 teachers’ signatures petitioning for their appearance on the ballot–for which only 8,000 signatures are required. Yet the authorities still denied FMPR a place on the ballot.    When they realized the unfair election would continue as planned, FMPR organized a vigorous “vote no” campaign. If successful, it would mean that the SPM wouldn’t win exclusive representation rights and the FMPR would still exist as a “bona fide organization” under Puerto Rican law.

By one estimate, SEIU committed between $10 million and $20 million to the campaign, with more than 300 paid organizers on the ground, slick ads and free t-shirts. The FMPR, on the other hand, spent a mere $65,000 ($30,000 of it in loans), with mostly volunteers organizing.  The difference is that these “volunteers” were the same people who helped organize the 10-day strike in February that won a wage increase and put a stop to the spread of charter schools. They were rank-and-file members with experience and a history of struggle alongside their co-workers.

FMPR’s “vote no” campaign won a clear victory. The official tally is 18,123 to 14,675, in a vote where turnout was nearly 94 %. The victory is all the more impressive given that FMPR was denied the right to have observers at polling places, and that various vote shenanigans took place, with votes appearing after the last day of the election, and various “no” votes being counted as “yes.”  Now that FMPR has won, it continues to exist as the main organizer of teachers. However, it is not the formal collective bargaining agent. FMPR will maintain its network of shop stewards, continue to represent teachers at the school level, and to fight around issues such as wages and privatization. Eventually, FMPR could perhaps reestablish exclusive representation for the teachers.

The U.S. labor movement has a sordid history of collaborating with the State Department and CIA to undermine labor and democratic movements in other countries. SEIU’s alliance with an anti-labor government to raid FMPR is only another chapter.  SEIU’s defeat in Puerto Rico is humiliating for SEIU President Andrew Stern, who seeks to remold the labor movement in his image. During Stern’s 12 years in office, he and his team have centralized power in SEIU at the International level, in the name of being able to negotiate better contracts via “partnership” with employers and organize workers even faster.  The result of substituting a militant rank and file with a small team of highly paid staffers is apparent. The types of deals being negotiated from the top have been so bad that rank-and-file workers are increasingly rejecting them.

Obviously, the black eye received by SEIU didn’t help the SPM’s campaign against the FMPR. Also, the challenge to the top SEIU leadership by UHW and reformers in other locals undermined SEIU’s claim to be the way forward for the labor movement. The victory of the FMPR over the alliance of the Puerto Rican government, school administrators and SEIU teaches us important lessons about building unions today. First, it underlines the importance of building a fighting union from the bottom up, as opposed to more bureaucratic methods. Second, it teaches us the importance of genuine labor internationalism, based on rank-and-file action, solidarity and a commitment to union democracy.

November 20, 2008

2008.11.20: Federal Appeals Court to Hear Troy Davis Case 12/9

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 4:00 pm

From:  Kurti, Rebecca
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 4:01 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Federal Appeals Court to Hear Troy Davis Case 12/9

More on Troy Davis, whose lawyers were granted the right to present oral arguments. Clearly, the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals thought this case deserved a second look. Note the tortured logic of Chatham County District of Attorney,
who says that the recantation of eyewitness testimony suggests “manipulation” . Many of these witnesses are risking
perjury charges by coming forward now. Far more likely is that the “manipulation” was by police and prosecutors who
were building a case against Troy in 1989, as these witnesses and Troy allege.

http://www.ajc. com/metro/ content/metro/ stories/2008/ 11/19/troy_ davis_appeal. html > Metro
Federal appeals court to hear Troy Davis case Dec. 9
Associated Press
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SAVANNAH, Ga. The federal appeals court in Atlanta will hear arguments Dec. 9 on whether death row inmate Troy
Anthony Davis can continue to challenge his conviction in the killing of a Savannah police officer, a state official said

Russ Willard, spokesman for the Attorney Generals Office, said a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals will hear arguments on whether Davis can file a second federal challenge to his conviction.

The 11th Circuit issued a stay of execution three days before Davis, 40, was scheduled to die Oct. 27 for the 1989
murder of Officer Mark MacPhail.

It was the third time since July 2007 that Davis has been spared the death penalty by a late court decision.

Defense lawyers have tried to win a new hearing for Davis since several witnesses who identified him as the killer came
forward and changed their testimony, saying that another man shot MacPhail.

The officer was working off-duty as a security guard at a bus station when he rushed to help a homeless man who
had been pistol-whipped at a nearby parking lot. The 27-year-old was shot twice when he approached Davis and two
other men.

Davis lawyers say new evidence proves their client was a victim of mistaken identity.

Prosecutors have said the case is closed. In court hearings, they said some of the affidavits repeat what a jury trial
already has heard, while others are irrelevant because they came from witnesses who never testified.

District Attorney Spencer Lawton also said he doubts the new testimony meets the legal standards for a new trial. And
while the recantations may seem persuasive to some, Lawton said, to others of us it invites a suggestion of
manipulation, making it very difficult to believe.

Davis was set to be executed in July 2007, but Georgias pardons board postponed the execution less than 24 hours
before it was to be carried out.

Over the next few months, a divided Georgia Supreme Court twice rejected Davis request for a new trial, and the
pardons board turned down another bid for clemency after considering the case again.

Then, two hours before his scheduled Sept. 23 execution, the Supreme Court issued a stay. A few weeks later, the
high court cleared the way for the execution when it decided not to give Davis another hearing.

November 6, 2008

2008.11.06: City and Municipal Union Reach 2-Year Deal (4% raises a year)

Filed under: Collective Bargaining — nyclaw01 @ 9:16 am
From: Herschel, Lucy
Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2008 9:16 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: City and Municipal Union Reach 2-Year Deal (4% raises a year)
This was buried in the New York Times the other day.  Other city unions have gotten higher increases. 

City and Municipal Union Reach 2-Year Deal

Published: November 3, 2008

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union, announced on Monday that they had signed a tentative two-year contract that calls for raises of 4 percent a year.

In light of the financial crisis and economic downturn, some of the union’s members feared that the city would insist on giving District Council 37 lower raises than several other municipal unions have received, but the settlement generally followed the 4-percent-a- year pattern of raises that the city’s other civilian unions have received in recent months.

“We clearly understand the practical reality of bargaining in difficult fiscal times,” said Lillian Roberts, the union’s executive director, who appeared at a City Hall news conference with the mayor. “A contract that provides two 4 percent increases over the course of two years is a significant victory.”

The agreement covers more than 100,000 employees in mayoral agencies, the Department of Education and the Health and Hospitals Corporation.

James F. Hanley, the city’s labor commissioner, said: “It’s 100 percent consistent with the pattern that six other municipal unions have settled on. It’s established an even playing field.”

Mr. Bloomberg said he was pleased that his administration and the union “have been able to come up with a good, fair contract that rewards the everyday heroes who keep New York running morning, noon and night.”

Some of the raises would be retroactive because the new contract, if ratified, would cover a period that began March 3. The deal calls for a raise of 4 percent effective that date, and a second 4 percent raise March 3, 2009.

At a meeting of the district council’s negotiating committee last week, officials from 2 of the union’s 56 locals voted against the agreement, complaining that it did not include a one-tenth of 1 percent pay increment that the city gave in September to another civilian union, Teamsters Local 237, which represents Housing Authority workers.

Faye Moore, president of the local representing social workers, said, “D.C. 37 is the largest civilian union, and we did not even deliver to our members what some other civilian unions received.”

Zita Allen, the district council’s communications director, noted that the Teamsters signed their contract before the $700 billion federal bailout and that the differences between the Teamsters’ deal and D.C. 37’s deal were inconsequential.

If, as expected, the district council’s delegate body approves the agreement at a special meeting on Thursday, the American Arbitration Association will conduct a ratification vote by mail ballot.

November 4, 2008

2008.11.04: Support The Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 5:47 pm

From:  Kurti, Rebecca
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 5:47 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Support The Campaign to End the Death Penalty


Hey Legal Aiders,

As you may know, we had a pretty successful fundraiser recently. Thanks to everyone who organized and attended the event! Because of the organizing work we’ve been doing around Troy Davis and with LWOP prisoners, we have several family members of prisoners and exonerees from the NY area that we would like to bring to the CEDP convention in November.

If you were unable to attend our recent fundraiser, and would like to make a donation, please get in touch. If you have friends, co-workers, professors, or family members that would like to donate, please let us know. We actually only need to raise $200 more dollars to cover our convention expenses.

As you know, prisoners’ family members, exonerees, and people formerly involved in the criminal justice system are the backbone of our organization and are living testaments to everything that is wrong with our criminal injustice system. Please donate what you can to help us add their voices to our organizing efforts.

If you would like to check out more infromation on the CEDP’s convention, you can check us out on our website.

In Struggle,
Rebecca Kurti
Campaign to End the Death Penalty

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