Pirates of the Caribbean: Seiu’s Failed Bid in Puerto Rico
WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 12, p. 235, 2009
13 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2017
Date Written: January 19, 2011
In October of 2008, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) failed to obtain majority support to represent a 40,000-member bargaining unit of public school teachers in Puerto Rico even though it had most of the odds stacked in its favor: a huge war chest, a decertified and bankrupt rival, and the Puerto Rican government qua employer’s neutrality, if not outright support. The Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the SEIU’s rival, campaigned against the SEIU’s bid for exclusive representation by focusing on rank-andfile mobilization and a message against raiding by a “colonial” union. The event showed that even progressive and successful unions such as the SEIU are not immune to oligarchic tendencies and may raid other unions in pursuit of money and power. Strategies that combine more democratic, bottom-up mobilization, including, in the case of Puerto Rico, strengthening the long-established tradition of minority unionism, could dampen future oligarchic tendencies, buttress industrial democracy, and create better coexistence between trade union organizations. To move forward, especially given the global crisis that has befallen us, unions need to start acting in the most principled of ways and expressing solidarity in the deepest manners.
Keywords: Puerto Rico, SEIU, Service Employees International Union, labor unions, teachers unions, colonialism
JEL Classification: K10, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation