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That was SEIU and 1199. He said, “Is Bread and Roses part of
it?” I said, “Yes.” He says, “Okay. Good.”
This was Sweeney?
President of SEIU at that time.
Yes, and now the president of the AFL-CIO. They have always
known what I did. So when they had this idea, John called and told me
what they were thinking about and said, “I'll send you a description of
what we think, and please look at it and give me your input.”
So I made suggestions for changes, and they accepted, and they're
asking me -- I am unable to do this -- to get somebody who would
administer it full time. Unfortunately, I don't have anybody in New
York I can recommend, but they are working very closely with us and
with other unions on this. This is an example that Bread and Roses can
be done elsewhere and should be done elsewhere, in spite of the
serious problems that the unions face in the current administration.
Now, why should it be done elsewhere? What would you say to
somebody who argued that cultural programs are fluff, a distraction,
something that unions don't really need, the unions need to focus on
more bread-and-butter issues? What would you say to that kind of a
Well, I would say that our program is very specific proof that
this programming is not merely fluff, that 1199, which has grown from
50,000 to 200,000 in the first forty years, cultural programs have been
part of that. It hasn't been the cause of it, but it has played a role.
Also, I believe that union members deserve the best. Why shouldn't
union members have art and paintings and poetry and prose about
working people? They get them in the schools, the families, in
churches, but they should get them from their unions. And they also
effectively serve the interests of the union. They educate, they build a
great deal of intense pride in the union by the members, provide
unusual outside publicity, and knit the bonds between workers and
Now, every once in a while, someone will say, “What does it take to
develop Bread and Roses?” For myself, I've just gone out and done it.
I know that if you become aware of what the workers in the union
want and you get the representative, articulate members to check
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