Unions Remain Viable Influence in Florida
By: Monica Russo
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
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.