New York labor boss denies designs on Puerto Rico teachers union

As of Feb. 29 the 41,000-member Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR) was maintaining an open-ended strike at public schools that started on Feb. 21 over wages, classroom size and health issues. Meanwhile, controversy continued over the role of Change to Win, a US labor federation reportedly jockeying to replace the FMPR as the teachers’ representation. New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez noted that Dennis Rivera—vice president of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major component of Change to Win—seems to be deeply involved in the effort. Calling Rivera “the most influential Puerto Rican labor leader in the US,” Gonzalez said members of independent unions in Puerto Rico “never expected” to see Rivera “treat them just like those old Washington labor leaders have done for so long.”

Rivera has denied rumors reported in the New York Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa on Feb. 23 about an alleged meeting with Puerto Rican governor Anibal Acevedo Vila in September at a San Juan restaurant; Rivera supposedly offered Acevedo $3 to 4 million in political donations in exchange for the elimination of the FMPR. “That’s a total fabrication,” Rivera told Gonzalez on Feb. 28, although he said he did “meet with the governor of Puerto Rico in a public restaurant around August… I’ve met with him maybe 20 times.” According to El Diario-La Prensa correspondent Jesus Davila, the executive director of the Brotherhood of Health Employees, Sixto Alvelo, saw Rivera and Gov. Acevedo meeting with former FMPR leaders at the Atlantica restaurant on Sept. 22. When Davila asked the governor’s office about the meeting, Acevedo denied through a spokesperson that he had met with Rivera at the Atlantica at any time in 2007 to discuss the FMPR; he also denied that there had been any offer of money. (Daily News, Feb. 29; ED-LP, March 1 from correspondent, print edition only)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 2

See our last post on the struggle in Puerto Rico.