Dump the Gingrich Gang!
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
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
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
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
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