SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25—
Teachers are waging a very important struggle for teachers and workers, here and in the U.S. They are fighting the governor and education authorities, the cops who have attacked their picket lines and AFT and SEIU hacks who have tried to raid their union. The 42,000-strong FMPR (Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico)—the island’s biggest union—went on strike on Feb. 21 against the union-busting Law 45 (a combination of the federal Taft-Hartley and New York State Taylor Law) which bans public workers from striking. The teachers are also fighting for better working and teaching conditions and against the plans to privatize about 1,000 schools, turning them into charter schools. The average annual wage of teachers here (most of them women) is $19,500, lower than any in the U.S.
The school bosses and cops have tried to push scabs to break the strikes. On the first day of the strike, riot cops viciously attacked striking teachers. On Mon., Feb. 25, cops escorting scabs attacked striking teachers at the Republic of Colombia school in Río Piedras. But in spite of the barrage of attacks facing the striking teachers, their struggle has mass support. Most of the 500,000 students are staying away from schools even though the government is urging them to attend classes. On Sun. Feb. 17, a few days before the strike, chanting “La huelga en educación será la mejor lección (The strike in education will be the best of all lessons) and “lucha sí, entrega no” (Fightback, no sellout), some 25,000 teachers and other workers and youth marched in San Juan in support of the teachers. There were huge contingents of workers from the UTIER (electrical utility union) and UIA (water workers unon), who are also negotiating new contracts.
But while these workers are fighting mad, the sellouts of the AFT (AFL-CIO) and the SEIU’s Change to Win Federation are behaving like colonial masters, trying to stab the teachers in the back. Both are conniving with the local government to decertify the FMPR. There are rumors that Dennis Rivera, former head of NYC’s 1199 and now a top honcho in the international SEIU and the NYS Democratic Party, has offered governor Vila a huge contribution to his re-election campaign (the governor is facing charges of campaign irregularities in his previous election) in exchange for decertification.
Workers shouldn’t have any faith in these hacks and in any electoral parties, including the pro-independence liberal PIP, which is offering its legal aid to the strikers. All these politicians serve capitalism.
PLP teachers are internationalist and always support our militant brothers and sisters fighting back anywhere against the same enemies we all face (education authorities, cops and union hacks). The striking teachers in Puerto Rico are an example we should all follow, fighting back in a period where teachers and workers all over face major attacks from the bosses trying to make us pay for the bosses’ economic crisis and imperialist war. Our slogan should be: teachers and workers of the world, unite!