Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: Teachers’ Strike On Hold, Fight ‘Rat’ Rivera

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, March 5 — After a 10-day militant strike, 10,000 teachers held a mass meeting at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum and agreed to the proposal of Rafael Feliciano, president of the FMPR (Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico) for a temporary suspension of the strike in order to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of their struggle without surrendering the right to strike again.

The strike included many mass actions, street marches of thousands, militant picket lines, battling vicious attacks by riot cops and confronting the gang-up of the Dept. of Education (DOE) bosses, governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and a court order to decertify the union for violating the anti-strike Law 45.

The strikers also had to deal with backstabbing by international union hacks like Dennis Rivera, vice-president of the SEIU “Change to Win” Federation and former president of NYS Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers Union. He lunched with Governor Vilá to urge decertification of the FMPR in favor of an SEIU union. During a mass rally, when a speaker called Rivera a “vulture,” striking teachers repeatedly chanted, “He’s a rat.”

The strikers did win a $150-a-month wage hike on top of a $100 monthly increase agreed upon last year. While the cost of living here is much higher than in the U.S., teachers’ starting pay here is $19,200-a-year, much lower than any U.S. school district. The DOE agreed not to punish any striking teachers “except those involved in criminal activities” (it was the cops who criminally attacked strikers) and to put on hold the privatization of many public schools (the DOE’s plan to make the 500,000 public school students and their working-class parents pay even more for the rotten conditions).
The strikers received support from other workers and students here, many of whom joined the marches and other activities during the struggle. A mass student meeting at the Univ. of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus organized a 24-hour strike to support the teachers. Scabbing “dissidents” had little mass support among the teachers but got a lot of coverage in the bosses’ media. And the opportunist leadership of the National Hostos Independence Movement issued a press release backing the bosses.

In the U.S., the strikers won support from both college and public school teachers. (See adjacent article on support from the City University of NY Professional Staff Congress union). The March 5 Delegate Assembly of the NYC United Federation of Teachers (UFT), with 92,000 members, also unanimously passed a solidarity resolution “to support the Puerto Rican teachers in their struggle to be treated with dignity.” But the UFT leadership gave no real support to the strikers.

On March 4, the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Agency in Manhattan was picketed, backing the strikers. PLP teachers participated in these support actions, and distributed a PLP leaflet in NYC and L.A. supporting them.
The strike was more than a trade union struggle; it was a political fight-back against the rulers’ strike-breaking Law 45 (similar to the U.S. Taft-Hartley and NY State Taylor Laws which forbid public workers’ strikes). It also fought the colonial-master politics of the Change to Win and AFL-CIO hacks, as well as the brutal repression by the “shock police.”

The strike demonstrated that, despite all the odds, these teachers dared to fight back in a day and age when so many workers accept the bosses’ attacks that make us pay for their economic crisis and endless wars (the death rate of soldiers from Puerto Rico in the Iraq war is very high). But it also showed the limitations of reform struggles.
Workers must turn these battles into schools for communism, learning how to forge a revolutionary internationalist movement to carry on the long-range fight-back for a world without vicious cops, union traitors and capitalist-imperialist oppressors. That’s the goal of workers’ power — communism — that PLP fights for. Join us!

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CUNY Faculty Union Supports Puerto Rico’s Strikers

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!

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21,000 Teachers On Strike in Puerto Rico against Privatization

Teachers’ Strike Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25—
Teachers are waging a very important struggle for teachers and workers, here an
d 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!

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Puerto Rico Teachers Defy Strike Ban

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, January 29 — Over 500 teachers picketed the Caguas region of the Department of Education as more than 25,000 members of the Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers (FMPR) prepared to strike February 1 for higher wages, better working and school conditions and against the strike-breaking Law 45, which calls for firing of public workers who strike. The teachers are also fighting the bosses’ media and union hacks affiliated with the AFL-CIO who actually support Law 45 containing the strike-breaking clause. The government decertified the FMPR for violating this anti-strike law.
These militant teachers deserve the support of all teachers in the U.S. and internationally. It is a particularly important struggle for public workers in the U.S. who face the same kind of union-busting law.

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