Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Puerto Rico Teacher Strike Resolution for UFT

More background info here:

Received from Marjorie Stamberg:

Here is a proposed resolution for the UFT DA about the upcoming strike of teachers in Puerto Rico, and their urgent need for support from our union. I am not a delegate, so I cannot put it up, but it would be very important if someone could. Please let me know if you can.

The motion is adapted from a motion put up at the PSC (CUNY faculty union) international committee.

The background information is this:
The Puerto Rican teachers' union, the FMPR -- the biggest public sector union on the island, with 42,000 members -- may be going on strike in February. It promises to be an extremely hard-fought struggle. The Puerto Rico Department of Education has refused to bargain with the FMPR, dragging its feet in negotiations for two years.

Then in early January the public employees labor relations commission decertified the FMPR. The grounds were that they had voted to strike and this supposedly violates Puerto Rican Law 45, which prohibits strikes by public employees. (The law is sort of Taft-Hartley and the NY Taylor Law rolled into one.)

Meanwhile, last week 8 teachers in the union were arrested at their school in the town of Utuado. Last fall 17 teachers at the school were fired. Teachers in Puerto Rico, incidentally, have extremely low pay (starting at $19,200 a year, with living costs higher than in the U.S.), and a lot of the facilities are rat-infested.

You should know that the national AFT has played a rotten role in Puerto Rico, first looting the
union's health and welfare fund and then, when the FMPR voted to disaffiliate, the AFT went to federal court trying to seize its assets. Meanwhile, the SEIU is trying to raid the FMPR. So we will see how the Weingarten/Unity leadership react, in a situation where the union's support should be ABCs.

There are several articles in English that give a rough idea I can forward the links, and I will send updates as we get them from the teachers union in Puerto Rico.

Proposed resolution:

(This resolution is similar to one put forward at the CUNY Professional Staff Congress (PSC) International Committee)

Resolution Protesting Repression Against Puerto Rican Teachers

Whereas the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR – Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico), which with a membership of 42,000 represents the vast majority of teachers on the island, has faced more than two years of inconclusive contract negotiations with the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, including a lock-out of teachers and students
throughout the island for two weeks in May 2006, and

Whereas in September 2007, the FMPR voted to authorize a strike demanding a substantial raise in their salaries , teachers’ participation in curriculum decisions and class size limits of 15 students, and

Whereas on January 8, the Public Sector Labor Relations Commission of Puerto Rico decertified the union, alleging that the vote to authorize a strike violated anti-union Law 45 which outlaws strikes by public employees, even though the Constitution of Puerto Rico guarantees the right to strike, and Whereas the government of Puerto Rico has declared its
intention to replace hundreds of public schools with charter schools, which would not be covered by union contract, and

Whereas the issues in Puerto Rico, such as privatization, the defunding of public education, the
use of anti-labor legislation similar to the Taylor Law and protracted contract negotiations are also critical for the UFT, and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers defends the right of public employees to strike and has acted in solidarity with teachers at the forefront of struggles for labor rights and quality education in Oaxaca, New Orleans and elsewhere, and

Whereas unions of electrical workers, health workers, communications workers, university faculty and staff and others in Puerto Rico have joined in supporting the struggle of the FMPR, and

Whereas preceding the strike deadline of February, on January 29, eight teachers were arrested and manhandled by police at the Luis Muñoz Rivera High School in Utuado, where 17 teachers were fired last October for objecting to a unilateral change in the curriculum, and police are now visiting schools throughout the island questioning and seeking to intimidate union delegates, therefore be it

Resolved that the UFT condemns this campaign against labor rights and the integrity of public education, calls for the decertification of the union to be annulled, and gives our full support to the teachers in the FMPR and be it further

Resolved that the UFT demands that no charges be brought against the arrested teachers and be it further

Resolved that the UFT approach other unions in the New York City area to organize a forum in support of the teachers in Puerto Rico and a solidarity protest at an early date outside the offices of the government of Puerto Rico at 666 Fifth Avenue.

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