Puerto Rico public teachers union calls for Aug. 15 strike
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Teachers Federation (FMPR by its Spanish initials) said a strike on Aug. 15 will demonstrate its members’ “indignation” and “outrage” with “the government and the Department of Education.”
The union, which has thousands of members, issued a release urging others to join its march from Plaza Colón in San Juan to the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, that morning.
“The public education system, together with its fundamental components, the students and their teachers, have suffered the most brutal attack in history. Secretary of Education Julia Keleher has decreed the closure of some 450 schools in two years and has reduced the number of educators from 31,000 in 2016 to around 22,500 today.
“Despite saying the student population does not justify more schools, the government is poised to push the creation of dozens of private charter schools, subsidized with public funds. Today, we are witness to one of the most disorganized new school year beginnings in history,” FMPR President Mercedes Martínez Padilla said in the release, which lists the following issues:
1. A hurried process of appointing teachers, calling thousands of educators “available resources.”
2. The forced transfer of children from schools to be closed even against the will of their guardians.
3. The violation of shifts and seniority in the appointment of transitory positions.
4. A humiliating drug-testing process, making teachers wait long hours to be able to work.
5. Arbitrary imposition of work programs and school organizations without faculty participation.
6. Starting the semester with hundreds of teachers who still do not know where they will be assigned.
“Furthermore, the government promised a salary increase to teachers and it is clear that it will not comply. The teachers have not received a salary increase in 10 years when, thanks to a strike, we took an increase of $250 from the government,” Martínez Padilla said.
Among their demands, the release listed the following:
1. Respect the teachers.
2. A halt to teacher relocations, in violation of seniority and merit principle.
3. Respect the registration of eligibles and the strict shift order to name transients.
4. That the salary increase the governor offered and failed to honor be honored, that the money appears.
5. Reverse school closings.
6. Zero privatization, educational vouchers and charter schools.
7. Safe and healthy working conditions for teachers and students.
8. Groups of 20 students maximum to provide an individualized and quality education.
“We are responding to an attack on the most precious thing our country has, which is childhood and its hopes. They are the main victims of all this chaos, improvisation and pillaging in the privatization that looms over public education. We come out in defense of the mistreated teachers who are denied respect for their work.
“We join our clamor with the thousands of mothers and fathers of students who see how they strike a blow on the right of their children to a quality education. We defend the working woman who makes up 85% of the teaching staff of the Department of Education,” the union leader said.
“The Department of Education, the state and the courts have closed the doors to teaching and the school communities. The only space left for us to demand justice and demand the redress of grievances is the street…. This Wednesday, August 15, there are no classes. There is a STRIKE for teaching dignity,” she concludes in the release.