Dump the Gingrich Gang!

Charlotte Kates ckates at mosquito.com
Sun Apr 28 13:27:33 MDT 1996

'Dump the Gingrich gang!' Service Employees cheer call for defeat of GOP in


by Fred Gaboury

This article was reprinted from the April 27, 1996 issue of the People's

Weekly World. For subscription information see below. All rights reserved -

may be used with PWW credits.

CHICAGO - Over 1,300 U.S. and Canadian delegates to the 75th convention of

the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) cheered as newly-elected

president Andrew Stern pledged an all-out drive to defeat right-wing

extremists in this fall's elections.

Standing in front of a colorful mural with "Honor work, Respect workers"

superimposed on the many faces of the union's 1.1 million members, Stern

called upon SEIU leaders to devote five working days to political action in

1996. "I'm going to be phone banking and walking precincts - and I want to

see you there," he said to cheers and cries of "I'll be there!"

They came to the Windy City this week and sat down to a a full plate:

election of new officers, adoption of a strategic plan meant to equip the

third largest U.S. union to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and the

1996 elections.

By week's end they had elected a leadership team of Stern as president and

Betty Bednarczyk as secretary-treasurer, had endorsed the reelection bid of

Pres. Clinton and were headed home determined to thwart right-wing efforts

to grab control of the White House and to break the grip of the "Gang of

73" GOP first-term members of Congress on Nov. 5.

In his acceptance speech, the 45-year-old Stern drew applause and cheers

when he said SEIU was going to "make sure that every candidate and every

party recognizes the needs and values of working families or pays the price

for their ignorance and indifference. We are not going to let one party

write us off and another party take us for granted," he told the mostly

young audience.

Stewart Acuff, a member of Local 1985 in Atlanta, will be there. "But," he

said, "down in Georgia we can't wait for Nov. 5. There's a primary on July

9 and our first job is to see that Rep. Cynthia McKinney wins her bid for a

third term."

Acuff, president of the Atlanta Central Labor Council, sees a "fighting

chance" of taking back the seats of three or four members of the Gang of

73. "We in Georgia have the responsibility of trying to defeat Gingrich. We

owe that to the people of America," he told the World, adding, "Newt is an

embarrassment - he even makes some Republicans nervous."

As far as Tom Balanoff is concerned, holding the White House is "our number

one national priority in 1996." Balanoff, president of Local 73 in Chicago,

said this year's elections are also an opportunity to "clean up the House

and maybe, even, the Senate."

Stephen Lewis told the World that the Massachusetts labor movement has

prioritized that state's race for the U.S. Senate where GOP Gov. William

Weld is running against two- term Sen. John Kerry.

"When Ted Kennedy was running in '94 people automatically lined up behind

him. But that's not the case this time." Lewis said the labor movement was

working to educate union members and their families on the issues and to

identify activists for Union Fall when the AFL-CIO hopes to field 10,000

activists from around the country to work in the elections.

Jeff Farmer, an organizer for Minneapolis-based Local 113, said

Massachusetts trade unionists are not alone in having to fend off

right-wing attempts to extend their hold on the Senate. "Paul Wellstone is

up for re-election and we can't afford to lose that one," he said. "We've

also got a chance to defeat Gil Gutknecht, one of the Gang of 73."

Election of the Stern leadership team signaled a passing of the torch. In

their program, Stern and Bednarczyk called for better living standards,

secure jobs, a voice on the job and a better future for "our children."

Stern said these goals could only be achieved on the basis of power. "We've

got to use the power we have to build the power we need," he said. "We've

got to be the toughest organizing machine in North America" in order to

deal with corporate giants who "salute no flag but their corporate logo ...

and honor no obligations but their bottom line."

Stern said the second challenge is to build power in the political arena

where the SEIU would first "use the power of persuasion" and, should that

fail, would resort to the "persuasion of power ... we have permanent issues

and permanent interests - but no permanent friends."

The Stern-Bednarczyk program, which calls for adding three executive

vice-presidents to SEIU's titled officers, is based on the recommendations

of the SEIU Committee on the Future. The committee, made up of 20 local

union officers, crisscrossed the country for the last four years, meeting

with members and local union officers on the job and in union meetings.

In their recommendations to the convention, the committee called for new

levels of commitment to organizing and political action; new orientation,

training, leadership development and diversity programs, and structural

changes that will enable a higher degree of coordination of activity.

The Stern team was elected without opposition after Interim President

Richard Cordtz withdrew. No delegate spoke in opposition to proposed

changes in structure and other constitutional amendments although several

delegates, led by Gus Benova, president of New York Local 32B-32J,


Earlier Benova, backed by a handful of SEIU's more than 300 locals,

submitted 28 constitutional amendments that delegates charged would "make

the international union little more than a paper tiger. This was a

last-ditch effort of the right wing to take over the international," a

local union officer who requested anonymity told the World.

At press time the convention had yet to consider nearly 100 resolutions,

ranging from the economy, through Canadian social policy (SEIU is the 10th

largest Canadian union), affirmative action, immigrants and "double

dipping" by union officers. Stern told the World that SEIU would be sending

an official delegation to the Labor Party Advocates convention in Cleveland

June 6.


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