In 2006, Oaxaca’s section of the educator union (CNTE Local 22) led a months-long occupation of their city to create a society that respected the needs of students, workers, and indigenous people. 10 years later, the same educators and union members in Oaxaca and many other regions are again at the front of a movement to create the society our students deserve.
This time, they are fighting corporate education reforms pushing standardized teacher evaluations, mass layoffs, and the end of free education for all. They have been joined by workers across the country demanding policies that serve the interest of working people, including 200,000 doctors and nurses opposed to similar corporate health care policies.
Their challenge to the government’s attempts to create a society based on exploitation, profit, and trade union busting has sparked massive repression, including the widely-reported deaths of 12 union members when police opened fire on protesters blocking a road, and the abduction and imprisonment of many labor and movement leaders.
These Mexican educators are at the front of a battle for a better society that U.S. teachers and unions are only starting to express. They are standing up against the government’s plan that “education, health, indigenous and campesino territories, and even peace and security are a commodity for whoever can pay for them, that rights are not rights but rather products and services to be snatched away" (EZLN and Congreso Nacional Indigena).
In Philadelphia, our students’ right to a quality education, families’ rights to thriving neighborhoods without fear of deportation or displacement, and workers’ rights to dignified wages and treatment continue to be stripped away via a "death by a thousand cuts". Mexico’s educators and rank-and-file workers are showing us how to fight for just society against a system that wants to turn our communities into commodities.
Local 22 has spent the last few years crafting a counterproposal to the Mexican government’s education reforms. Among the points in the counter proposal are a curriculum based in the diverse, indigenous, and multicultural context of Oaxaca, teaching practices based in critical pedagogy, and the elimination of standardized testing to evaluate either students or teachers.
From Chile to El Salvador to Colombia, Latin America has always served as the United States’ testing ground for market-driven and union-busting policies. Their struggle is our struggle. We send our rage, tears, and admiration to these education workers who have demonstrated time and again that educators and unions have a key role in articulating a vision of the society we deserve.
While the attacks on public education, workers, and unions continue to escalate in the U.S. and across the world, we pledge to fight alongside the educators of Oaxaca and around the world for a society in which education, health, housing, and dignity are rights that every student and worker deserves.
To show our solidarity, please join us for a Oaxacan-style Barricada Cultural on Monday Night in front of Philadelphia’s Mexican Consulate at 8pm. If you would like to contribute financially, members of the Chicago Teachers Union have set up a grassroots fundraiser to support Oaxacan and CNTE educators.
If you would like to learn more or discuss the role of the U.S. in political and economic destabilization in Latin America, please join our summer book club on “Illegal People” by David Bacon (or one of the 14 other book clubs exploring racial justice, culturally relevant teaching, labor history, and many other topics).
Statement written by Max Rosen-Long, Edwin Mayorga, and Jennifer Cox.
(Milwaukee educators, students, and community members show support for Oaxacan teachers at their Mexican Consulate)
"As we learned that these idealistic and dedicated young people were teachers they became part of our family as well."
This Friday, parents of the 43 teaching students who were forcibly disappeared in Mexico last year will be visiting Philadelphia for an event hosted by La Casa Latina @ UPenn.
Working Educators is proud to welcome these brave parents to our city, and founding WE member Tatiana Olmedo explains why this event will be important and powerful:
In late September 2014 we learned that 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa had disappeared in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. These student teachers clashed with local authorities and were taken into custody and never heard from again. These student teachers came from the communities in rural Mexico that endure extreme poverty and where people live in precarious conditions. The Teachers Schools they attend were established to give the young people of these areas an opportunity to create a better society and continue to give back to their communities. Their teachers’ training is rooted in social justice and working to educate people about their rights and demanding a true democracy in Mexico.
As the world learned of this tragedy we grieved with the families. As we learned that these idealistic and dedicated young people were teachers they became part of our family as well. Their struggle for justice and democracy is similar to our struggle for our public schools, our communities and our own democracy. Meeting parents of these young heroes and listening to their accounts of their fight with the Mexican government for justice is a great opportunity and a chance to connect the dots in relation to the neoliberal reform movement and its place within public education.
Please join us on Friday, 4/10 at 4:30pm at Penn's Towne Heilmeier Hall Room 100 (220 South 33rd St.). Click here for more info and to RSVP.
The Caravana 43 families will be speaking at a number of other events in Philly, which you can find out about here.
(Translation: "They tried to bury us, but they didn't know that we were seeds")
The British Columbia Teachers' Federation has been in a contract dispute with their government, and spent several days striking in advance of the school year. Their members recently voted to enter binding arbitration -- now their elected officials must agree to it!
Below is our letter:
September 12, 2014
Dear Premier Clark and Minister Fassbender,
WE write in support of our sisters and brothers in the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and ask that the BC Government agree to arbitration of the collective agreement. Teachers are currently striking in order to improve classroom conditions for their students: as a striking teacher said this week, "The primary point is getting funding for students, for getting more staff, for getting correct class sizes." Teachers, school staff, and honest education researchers know that these things are extremely important in order to give students the education they deserve.
The BCTF has reasonably asked for this long-term dispute to go to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is a fair and standard labor-relations practice that allows an impartial third party to mediate contentious disputes and guide fair solutions. If the government would agree to this, the schools could open quickly and students and teachers could get back to work.
Most stakeholders in British Columbia are behind this rational solution—everyone from teachers to parents to mayors and newspapers support sending this labor dispute to binding arbitration. Why does the government resist a fair and neutral process?
As fellow working educators and social justice unionists, WE respectfully ask that the government of British Columbia agree to put these issues to binding arbitration so that teachers and students can get back to teaching and learning.
The Caucus of Working Educators
A Caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA