Tens of thousands of public school teachers in the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), the country’s largest union, are set to go on strike sometime after Feb. 1 in defiance of the Puerto Rican government and parts of the labor movement. Teachers have set up strike committees in schools, and some say participation is higher than during a strike in 1993. In Ponce some 600 FMPR members blocked streets in a recent pro-strike demonstration, while more 500 teachers picketed in front of school board offices in Caguas.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila, of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), responded by attempting to rescind the union’s certification under Law 45, which regulates public sector unions and forbids strikes by public employees. On Jan. 22, the FMPR filed papers in US federal district court in San Juan seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional.
On Jan. 18 presidents of Puerto Rican unions affiliated with US union federations—the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation—held a press conference to denounce the FMPR’s strike plans. They said legal action by the FMPR against Law 45 might hurt 100,000 public employees if the courts overturn the law, since their union recognition depends on it. According to some observers, the real issue was a longstanding dispute between the FMPR and the US labor movement. The FMPR has disaffiliated from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an AFL-CIO union. The AFT seems to have given up efforts to regain the Puerto Rican union, but the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), part of Change to Win, is reportedly seeking to replace the FMPR. Some media commentaries against the FMPR are said to have come from people associated with the US labor movement, including investigative journalist Wilda Rodriguez, a former press secretary for Dennis Rivera, president of SEIU 1199. (Bandera Roja, Puerto Rico, Jan. 29; Claridad, Puerto Rico, Jan. 16, 24; El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Jan. 14, 23)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 27
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