by Kevin Zapf Hanes | May 02, 2012
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 1,300 retired public employees signed up for automatic dues deduction with AFSCME following a joint organizing campaign between the International union’s retiree department and AFSCME Council 95.
“We are encouraged by the outpouring of support,” said Council 95 Pres. Annette Gonzalez. “More than ever, people on the island understand that we must pull together and stand united against the politics of destruction coming out of this government.”
“I am pleased that so many of my sisters and brothers have chosen to join us in the fight for the working middle class on our precious island,” said Blanca Paniagua, Council 95 retiree chapter president. “Whether a former or current employee, we must stand together to demonstrate that we will fight to defend our hard-won rights and advocate for policies that move our commonwealth forward.”
Council 95, also called Servidores Públicos Unidos, (SPU - united public servants), will continue its retiree organizing campaign in the weeks ahead.
“Retirees are a potent force whom we must engage in our fight for workers’ rights,” AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders said. “This organizing success with retirees in Puerto Rico demonstrates how, by pulling together, we will make significant strides for working families and retirees everywhere.”
The need for political activism and vigilance on the island is great. In 2009, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño came into office intent on balancing the island’s budget on the backs of hard-working public employees. His supporters in the Legislature passed a law that stripped collective bargaining from thousands of AFSCME members represented by the Servidores Públicos Unidos. But they fought back and won and their victory laid the groundwork for similar fights in Wisconsin, Ohio and beyond.