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day discussion, was given over to the need for one big union, and the idea of a merger was projected -- but it was in a general sense. Nobody could spell out anything. But everybody in 1199 was united on this, maybe because it was abstract and there was nothing very specific. But Doris and her supporters -- I remember Floris Saunders making a rabble-rousing speech on the advantages of one big union, and this was followed up by everybody. There was no difference of opinion on it.

It was always recognized and understood that mergers have to be between international unions, that we could not bolt the RWDSU and merge with service employees. For a merger to take place it would be necessary for the merger to be between the RWDSU and the SEIU. This was always before us as a problem. When John Sweeney became president of the service employees, Sweeney became interested in the idea of a merger. It was sharpened by the fact that by now, remember, in 1974 there was a federal law enacted. We were, at various times, at conflict with SEIU in different parts of the country in election campaigns, and it was generally agreed that a merger would be a good thing -- but this was still a general kind of thing. But in the period in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, 1199 was growing very very rapidly, and was really developing to a point where we had, you know, close to 150,000 members. Our know-how in the field was very well acknowledged by SEIU. They believed that we had the ability to tackle organization around the country. We had demonstrated it out in the open. The general concept was that SEIU would provide the money -- three million dollars in the first year, we would be providing a million dollars in the first year -- and we would provide the leadership for it, the staff. We would use their staff as well, we would probably add to staff, but we would be the organizing people to direct the campaign.


Let me ask a couple of questions. How did you come to focus on SEIU?


Well SEIU has many, if not more, hospital workers than we do. But it goes back even further. After the 1959 strike, we went to an AFL-CIO convention -- it must have been 1960 or 1961 -- in San Francisco. I had been in touch with Richard Liebes in San Francisco, who was the research director -- but much more than the title implied -- of Local 250 of the service employees, which was the big hospital local. It was a very big local of about, at that time, maybe 30,000 members, had gotten very good agreements and was a very good union. I would be in touch with him in terms of their conditions and how they worked, etcetera. When we went to San Francisco I called

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