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“Change to Win is Dead”–Juan Gonzalez on Labor Movement Struggle

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In a dramatic blow to SEIU’s efforts to raid UNITE HERE members and jurisdictions, fifteen of the nation’s leading unions pledged Monday to provide UNITE HERE with “material and moral” support, according to an article in the Huffington Post. Democracy Now! co-host and Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez says this is “a seminal moment in the American labor movement.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you’ve been covering the labor movement and particularly what’s been going on with UNITE HERE, a very interesting major meeting they had last week?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, this week has actually been the convention, the national convention of UNITE HERE, the merger of the hotel workers and the apparel workers’ union that’s been torn by strife now for several months, and what was really a seminal moment, I think, in the American labor movement, which is that a host of leaders of the AFL-CIO and of the Change to Win, the alternative federation, appeared at the convention to condemn the Service Employees International Union, the union led by Andy Stern, which has been supporting a dissident group that broke away from UNITE HERE.

And some of the wording of some of the presidents of the union was astounding. Gerald McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, denounced SEIU for, quote, “poaching” of UNITE HERE and for engaging in what he said was “piracy on the high seas of organized labor.”

You had Jimmy Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, who’s part of Change to Win, also supporting UNITE HERE.

So, what you have, basically, for the first time in the American labor movement is both the AFL-CIO and many of the Change to Win unions saying that SEIU has really gone off the deep end in its attempt to raid other unions, and they’re condemning it and pledging their financial support to UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm and his attempts to rebuff SEIU. So, given that SEIU is the fastest-growing, one of the biggest and certainly the richest union in America, this signifies a major change in how the American labor movement is going to be dealing in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Change to Win, which broke away from the AFL-CIO, is going to make it, is going to last?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Oh, no, I think that basically Change to Win is dead. In essence, what has happened is that the reformers that were supposed to be the Change to Win unions have become so torn by internal division and by the attempts of SEIU to dominate the American labor movement that, in essence, the Change to Win Federation — it’s not officially dead yet, but my sense is, in my discussions with labor leaders around the country, is that some of the existing Change to Win unions will soon be rejoining the AFL-CIO, but probably without SEIU.

AMY GOODMAN: And there will be a major presidential election within the AFL-CIO.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Later this year, John Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO, will be retiring. And it looks pretty much set now that Richard Trumka, the second-in-command at the AFL-CIO, will now become the new head of the American labor movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll continue to follow that, certainly.

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