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Unions Remain Viable Influence in Florida


By:  Monica Russo


Published: July 27, 2005
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News that major unions are leaving the AFL-CIO has reverberated throughout the world of politics. Public officials who look to labor for support are wondering what will happen. Will support for politics dry up? Will this mean an end to cooperation on working family issues here in Florida?

As President of The SEIU Florida Healthcare Union, representing workers at over 86 hospitals and nursing homes throughout Florida, Let me state first that SEIU members in Florida and the country will not only continue to engage in political action but our efforts will intensify. Last year we spend millions registering, education and turning out hundreds of thousands of new voters here in Florida, in fact SEIU - a single union - invested more money in politics in 2004 than did the AFL-CIO. Going forward, SEIU is committed to electing candidates who support worker's rights to organize, who fight for quality, accessible healthcare, and who support immigration policies - regardless of party affiliation.

Here in Florida and elsewhere we will continue to work with central labor councils to maximize our strength in local communities. Working families have won great victories in Florida through alliances in our communities - we won smaller class sizes in 2003, and a higher minimum wage in 2004. SEIU will work with anyone, including our brothers and sisters at the AFL-CIO, on campaigns that improve the quality of life for working families.

Despite our victories, working Floridians are under attack. Our civil rights have been eroded through the elimination of affirmative action at state universities and contracts; privatization and outsourcing has displaced thousands of dedicated public servants; millions of working Floridians have no healthcare; housing is increasingly unaffordable; and the list goes on... The hope for Floridia's working families lies in labor's ability to organize workers. Under 3% of Florida's private sector workers are in unions. It doesn't take a rocker scientist to draw the connection between union density and quality of life for workers.

Seven international unions have decided to form a new coalition focused on growing the labor movement - the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Laborers (LIUNA), Carpenters (UBC), Farm workers (UFW), Hotel Workers (UNITE/HERE), Teamsters (IBT), and Service Workers (SEIU). This change to win coalition will launch aggressive new initiatives here in Florida to organize the unorganized and build power for Florida's workers.

SEIU left the AFL-CIO for one reason: A desire to win for working people. For decades now labor has been in a decline, and without change, the labor movement in America will become irrelevant. We leave the AFL-CIO with regret, but we are optimistic that with a new approach we can reverse labor's decline. We can reinvigorate the union movement, and we can shape a brighter tomorrow for America's working families.