Puerto Rico: teachers back independent union

Voting results released on Oct. 23 showed Puerto Rico’s teachers rejecting by a 18,123-14,675 margin a bid by the Puerto Rican Teachers Union (SPM) to represent them. The “no” vote was vigorously promoted by the teachers’ current union, the militant Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which the Labor Relations Commission excluded from running in the new election. The Puerto Rican government decertified the FMPR after it defied a law against strikes by public employees in late February with a militant 10-day job action over wages, classroom size and health issues.

With an exceptionally high turnout—33,818 out of a reported 36,000 eligible voters participated—the results were a blow to the SPM and the affiliated Teachers’ Association (AM), which represents school principals and administrators. The two unions are affiliated with the US-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU). With both the Puerto Rican government and a US union backing the SPM, the FMPR was at a tremendous disadvantage. FMPR leaders claimed that the SEIU and the SMP spent $20 million on the campaign and contracted 500 campaign workers from affiliated unions, while an FMPR activist estimated that the independent union spent a total of $50,000. The FMPR was even barred from having observers at the polling places. (FMPR press release, Oct. 23; CounterPunch, Oct. 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 26

See our last post on the struggle in Puerto Rico.