NEW YORK CITY, March 6 — The February 25 Delegate Assembly of the City University’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC) voted unanimously to “participate in strike support and solidarity efforts on behalf of the striking teachers of the FMPR [Puerto Rico’s teachers’ union].” Delegates contributed $700 on the spot, and quickly organized a network for strike support on the campuses. Fifty PSC’ers took 7,000 flyers and petitions to union colleagues and students on at least half of CUNY’s 20 campuses. Another $900 was raised by PSC leaders at a board meeting of the state teachers’ union body.
Class unity across borders is essential for teachers and all workers, so PL members and friends in the PSC took the lead organizing strike support on the campuses. Exclusive focus on economic gains for a single union’s members is a loser for all workers because it isolates us from each other. We need to combine struggle for our own demands with equal efforts to build international working-class unity and class consciousness, to win workers to PLP.
This struggle will remain a significant political one among PSC leaders and activists for some time. While all are sympathetic to the striking teachers, there is disagreement about priorities: amid a tough PSC contract campaign and an uphill battle for more State funding, should we spend time and resources on FMPR strike support?
PLP members and friends and other PSC’ers answered that question with a mass approach, working hard on the campuses to persuade our colleagues and students how vital it is to support our fellow teachers in a bitter struggle. We were not deterred by comments like, “I wish you’d spend this kind of energy on the contract campaign!” Some were anxious about relations with other unions “if we got too far out front” supporting the FMPR, which disaffiliated from our national union, and is being raided by SEIU VP Dennis Rivera. But we persisted, getting a warm response from CUNY students, especially those entering teaching and those from Latin America.
One cafeteria worker urged others to sign the petition, exclaiming, “This is to liberate my people!” And all workers, we told him. One signer was a union chapter leader in his high school.
We used different tactics: tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings. We proved that relying on the masses of PSC’ers and students to express their international solidarity with the strikers was the way for revolutionaries to work in reform struggles, not as some sectarian groups do, saying some apparently “correct” things but building no base among the mass of workers.
Self-critically, comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists’ state power, but win all workers’ liberation — communism.
We’ve recently had two CUNY PLP forums, one on racism and another on immigration, each attracting 30 or more faculty and students. We’ve also expanded CHALLENGE readership and study groups, have collected $800 worth of new subscriptions. We’re planning a Party newsletter at CUNY, and winning some friends closer to joining, but we have more to do. Time presses: the whole world is a tinder box leading to a major imperialist war. Teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico have taught us a good lesson in fighting capitalism: “¡Lucha sí! ¡Entrega no!” Struggle yes, surrender no!