Friday, October 16, 2009

The following report is from the AFL-CIO blog, and it's about solidarity demonstrations across the USA in support of workers in Puerto Rico who held a general strike the other day.
Thousands of workers rallied in Puerto Rico against the governor’s drastic layoffs:
The sign says “Give me back my job.”
In states across the country, working people marched and rallied in solidarity today with their Puerto Rican brothers and sisters against draconian budget cuts and cancellation of their collective bargaining rights.

As 200,000 people march in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to protest Gov. Luis Fortuño’s plan to slash the budget deficit on the backs of workers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter of support and solidarity and rallies were held in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities.

In his letter of support, which was read at the San Juan rally, Trumka said:

"We are fully aware of the attacks being afflicted on the workers and their families on your island and we will do whatever we can to stop them. We are completely committed to bringing the full force of the AFL-CIO to fighting for the rights and well being of our affiliated unions, their members, and the people of Puerto Rico."

Using recently passed legislation known as Public Law 7, Fortuño plans to lay off as many as 30,000 public employees and deny collective bargaining to the remainder of the island’s public workers. The U.S. commonwealth, where unemployment is already at 15 percent, is set to receive $6 billion in federal economic recovery funds, more than enough to cover a projected $3.2 billion budget deficit.

Trumka’s letter goes on to say:

"At times like these—and especially at times like these—the people of Puerto Rico need a strong public sector, not a weaker one. We need the government to step in and push the economy forward, not further weaken it. Laying off public servants, particularly at the scale that the governor is planning, is not only anti-worker, it will set back national efforts towards an economic recovery."

Jose Rodriguez Baez, president of the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor, told the crowd:

"Today’s march is a clear demonstration of opposition to the government’s policies. Puerto Rico is unified in repudiation of the lay-offs of more than 30,000 public sector workers, the elimination of collective bargaining agreements and policies that promote privatization. "

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, whose union represents many of the Puerto Rican public employees, in his prepared remarks, told the San Juan rally:

"We must tell the governor: Cutting jobs hurts Puerto Rico by crippling public services. Cutting jobs hurts Puerto Rico by putting added pressures on the economy. Cutting jobs means more families without a paycheck. Cutting jobs means less money circulating. Cutting jobs means less tax dollars in the treasury.
We are not going to roll-over. We are not going to give up. We are not going to stand by while Gov. Fortuño cuts vital services and our members’ jobs.
Some things are too important to sacrifice. Some things are too precious to give away. The future of Puerto Rico is too important and too precious. "

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), an AFL-CIO constituency group, joined with AFSCME, SEIU and other unions to bring the situation in Puerto Rico to the attention of the White House and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Here’s LCLAA President Milton Rosado:

"We want Governor Fortuño to know that an attack on the workers of Puerto Rico is an attack on all who fight for workers’ rights and that we are committed to ensuring that every Latino and Latina activist and trade unionist is aware of it."
Here's an earlier story and appeal from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) about the strike and what you can do to espress solidarity with the strikers.
Stop Puerto Rico's George Bush:‏
Anna Burger (
We may have replaced George Bush last November, but Puerto Rico's version continues to wreak havoc on the island.

Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Puerto Rico's Republican Governor Luis Fortuño announced plans to eliminate the jobs of 30,000 public employees early next month.

Tomorrow, over 200,000 people are preparing to take to the streets in a general strike, and Fortuño is threatening to charge the protesters with terrorism.

Not even Karl Rove and George Bush tried that.

Ask Congress to hold hearings on Fortuño's anti-American behavior, and we'll be sure to send you a button designed by popular artist Antonio Mortorel.

In recent days, thousands of university students have demonstrated and marched in support of the working women and men who provide critical public services to the people of Puerto Rico.

Those young demonstrators were threatened, physically attacked, tear gassed and falsely arrested in some instances. Violating the civil rights of your own citizens is unacceptable...wherever you are.

Stand up for the civil rights of Puerto Rico's citizens by contacting your member of Congress to ask them to hold hearings on Fortuño's anti-American actions.

We'll be in touch with more opportunities to get involved in the near future.
In Solidarity,
Anna Burger,
International Executive Secretary-Treasurer


If you live in the USA go to the link above or to THIS LINK to send the following letter to the US Congress.


Dear Congress:

I am very concerned about what has been happening in Puerto Rico over the past few weeks. I'm deeply troubled about recent media reports that Republican Governor Luis Fortuño has tear-gassed students and threatened to arrest demonstrators on terrorism charges if they protest his short-sighted plans to eliminate 30,000 public employees.

I'm writing to ask you hold a public hearing on these issues as soon as possible.
Here's an item from CNN that gives a bit more background to this struggle, and more news of the strike.
(CNN) -- Thousands of people took to the streets of Puerto Rico on Thursday, paralyzing commercial activity in downtown San Juan to protest government budget cuts that are expected to result in at least 13,000 layoffs.

Gov. Luis Fortuño's office says that Puerto Rico's economic downturn started four years ago.

"More employees, zero fired," a sign held by one demonstrator read.

The one-day general strike started at dawn and culminated at noon with a rally at the Plaza las Americas mall. Organizers said at least 100,000 people took part in the rally and thousands more stayed home from work.

Federico Torres Montalvo, a union leader, said 200,000 people attended the rally.

Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock estimated the number at no more than 15,000.

"There's no way you had 20- or 25- or 50,000 people there," he said.

There was no independent verification of the turnout.

Confrontations between police and students blocking a highway in Puerto Rico eased late Thursday afternoon after the rally, which ended at 2:30 p.m.

But some students refused to leave a highway where they had blocked traffic, the news outlet said. When police stepped up their presence, the students confronted them and burned a tire, but there were no reports of violence or arrests.

"If things like this had happened in Washington, the capital of the free world, there would be prisoners now," said Gov. Luis Fortuño, whose money-saving efforts were the focus of the demonstrators' ire. ( That's an interesting and undoubtedly accidental example of telling the truth on the part of a politician-Molly )"Instead of looking behind, we have to look ahead."

Victor Villalba, president of the Puerto Rican Federation of Workers, lauded the turnout and criticized government efforts at privatization.

"They will have to pass over the bodies of thousands and thousands of Puerto Ricans before turning the government over to private businesses," Villalba told the crowd.

Aida Diaz, president of the teacher's union, also praised the turnout.

"Today we said, 'Present,'" she said. "Tomorrow we will say, 'Present,' because teaching is by the public, for the public."

University students, teachers and clergy leaders were among those who joined the strike.

Negotiations between police and protesting students continued late into the afternoon.

Methodist Bishop Juan Vera, a strike leader who had spoken at the rally, was one of the lead negotiators.

"We can feel how the soul of a whole people vibrates," Vera said.

At least six demonstrators required medical attention for dehydration and high blood pressure as a result of the heat and sun, the primerahora Web site reported. One woman was taken away in an ambulance.

"Everyone has the right to express themselves and we will guarantee that right," Fortuño told CNN affiliate WAPA TV in a morning interview. "The important thing is that we do it with respect, that we do it with order and that we understand that each of our rights ends where the other person's begins."

News media reported no major incidents at the protest sites. Some University of Puerto Rico students got into shoving matches with police at the mall before the noon rally but no arrests were reported, said

The mall's windows and doors had been covered with plywood and it was closed for the day. Its 3,000 employees and 300 stores, restaurants and banks make it the Caribbean's largest.

The demonstrators oppose Fortuño's demand that nearly 17,000 workers be laid off to help close a $3.2 billion budget gap.

McClintock said Thursday that the true number of public-sector job cuts, slated to take effect next month, will likely be closer to 13,000.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Puerto Rico's unemployment rate exceeds 15 percent. Some analysts expect the layoffs to propel that rate to at least 17 percent.

In a statement issued Thursday, the governor's office pointed out that the island's economic downturn started in 2005, three years before the recession hit the U.S. mainland.

According to the statement, about 70 percent of Puerto Rico's budget is dedicated to salaries and benefits for government employees. The U.S. protectorate, the statement said, has more government employees in proportion to population than any state. Its efforts are not unusual. Forty-three of the nation's 50 states have implemented some form of payroll reduction, hiring freeze or layoffs, the release said.

The government already has cut 10 percent in operating expenses by cutting back on official vehicles, cell phones and credit cards, and has instituted 10 percent pay cuts for the governor and agency heads through next year, the announcement said.
This may be shape of things to come, even in the mainland USA, as the government attempts to bail out the corporations while offloading the burden to ordinary people. In the future such general strikes may not be limited to more or less symbolic one day affairs. We'll see. We'll see.

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