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Live From Puerto Rico — Donna Edwards at SEIU

[Editor’s note, updated: We’ve updated the livestream of Donna speaking to the SEIU Convention this morning with the YouTube version. — dn]

Donna Edwards, who you can watch live addressing the convention, is the organization’s first best example of how the SEIU plans to unseat conservative incumbents. The SEIU’s "Accountability Project" will identify problem politicians by, inter alia, relying on feedback from the locals in each district. Moreover, the SEIU will recruit members from within its own ranks to run for political office and will shortly be implementing a program to teach candidates how to address labor issues more effectively.

The first full day of the SEIU Convention was punctuated with standing ovations, cheers of "S-E-I-U!", and personal accounts from the janitors, the home care workers, the nurses, the security officers, of how union membership has been the best thing that has happened to them. Andy Stern, president of the international, reasserted in a fiery opening speech (complete with a glitzy graphics display) that the SEIU was determined to seek justice for all, not justice for some. It was a dazzling display of theater.

Going after the offenders in D.C. is an integral part of the union’s "Justice for All" program. The SEIU’s 2008 "Accountability Project” is a warning call to politicians to follow through on the promises upon which they campaigned. According to John Youngdahl and Stephanie Mueller of SEIU’s political division, the Project targets legislators who have reneged on their campaign promises and is one of their primary weapons in pushing through a progressive agenda.

The SEIU is committing $10 million to the Accountability Project for the post-November 2008 cycle. The program’s main goals include:

* $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises.

* Calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable.

* At least 50 percent of the union’s organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort.

* A commitment to jump start a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union’s membership).

There is, however, a shadow hanging over the Convention, and that’s the internecine war being waged between the UHW West, which seeks to maintain local control over its decision-making processes, and the SEIU, which wants to bring the local into the fold and centralize its power. More on that tomorrow.

[disclaimer: airfare and hotel paid for by SEIU]

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