Touched down in San Juan at noon and checked my dragging, coffee-depleted self into the hotel. I must say, palm trees outside my window are a nice change of pace; ordinarily it’s a slightly rusted fire escape upon which pigeons have left their trademark Rorschach blots.
After downing some much needed caffeine, I headed to the Convention Center to pick up my press badge and found myself immersed in purple. The union’s health care division Assembly was dispersing, and the hundreds of workers piled out, a sea of purple t-shirts and yellow lanyards. So many purple t-shirts…
I stopped to chat with a group of public service employees who had been taking pictures with the disturbingly handsome, Kevlar-vested S.W.A.T. team outside the Hall. Members of Local 668 in Pennsylvania, the group was quick to answer a basic softball question, "What is the most important benefit you receive as a member of a union?"
"Regaining bumping rights."
What came next was hardly surprising, given that unions have been on the decline in this country for so long. (I can just hear the panty-twisted, accusatory shrieks of "Communists!" over at The Corner now.) "Unions provide a voice for the workers," said one woman. "Government has to stop balancing the budget on our backs."
This echoes what I’d been hearing as I wandered around the place, getting my bearings. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Justice for all. More and better organizing. Political accountability. Whether or not you agree with the union’s means, the ends seem pretty clear: a return to worker-driven politics.
This should be an interesting couple of days. Especially with those hottie SWAT guys hanging around outside.
[Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU]