29 February 2008

Defend Puerto Rican Teachers Strike!

On February 21, the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR), the largest public employee union on the island representing over 40,000 teachers, went on strike in a fight for its very existence against government attempts to smash it. The teachers are on strike in defiance of Law 45—similar to New York State’s Taylor Law—prohibiting public workers in Puerto Rico from striking or even “promoting” a strike. The teachers and their supporters have been met with brutal police repression. Twenty-one have been arrested (most released without charges). In retaliation for voting to strike, the government decertified the union, fined it $30,000, halted the dues check-off, attempted to freeze its assets and issued an order against its 3,000 elected leaders and delegates, forbidding them from representing their members or running in union elections until 2013! The government is now threatening to fine the union $10,000 for each day of the strike. The union has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court appealing the government’s attacks.

In a letter of solidarity sent to the FMPR, the Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, called for labor to smash the union-busting Law 45. The letter affirmed, “The attack on your union is an attack on all unions and the entire working class in Puerto Rico and the United States.” Puerto Rico is a colony of U.S. imperialism, and it is ultimately Washington that holds the whip hand over the Puerto Rican masses. It is crucial for the U.S. proletariat to defend the struggles of our class brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, and stand for Puerto Rico’s right to independence. Victory to the teachers strike!

We print below a February 21 protest letter by the PDC addressed to Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the governor of Puerto Rico.

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The Partisan Defense Committee vigorously protests the vicious police attacks against strikers and supporters of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) teachers union. We also condemn the arrests of 14 teachers. We demand their immediate release and that all charges be dropped.

The FMPR is on strike after more than two years without a contract. They are striking over deplorable wages, overcrowded classrooms and buildings in decay. This morning, police attacked strikers and supporters defending the picket lines at schools all over the island. In San Juan, one demonstrator was seen bleeding from an open head wound after the police beat him with batons. Strikers picketing at school entrances were arrested on charges of “obstructing justice,” “provoking damage to a vehicle” and other outrageous charges.

In retaliation for exercising its right to strike, the union faces threats by the Public Service Labor Relations Commission of decertification under Law 45, which forbids public employee unions from striking. The PDC vehemently protests this slave-labor law. The PDC demands the immediate release of all strikers and supporters. Drop all charges now!

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The PDC urges all unions and defenders of workers rights to contribute to the FMPR’s strike fund. Wire money to the union’s account at: Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria de Puerto Rico; routing number: 021502228; account name: Grupo Nacional de Apoyo a Maestros y Maestras, Sucursal 018; account number: 1050401162.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 909, 29 February 2008)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.