APPU Message in Solidarity with Chicago Workers

APPU Message in Solidarity with Chicago Workers, in particular to those in the Boricua Community, in celebration of International Workers Day in Chicago, Ill., USA.  

Monday, May 1st, 2017

We salute and extend our solidarity with workers in Chicago commemorating International Labor Day.

The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios, APPU) founded in 1961, is the largest organization of UPR faculty members in the public University system in Puerto Rico.  APPU is committed to defending the rights of professors as workers, and as human beings. 

APPU has declared a 24 hrs. work stoppage on May 1st to demonstrate in the streets, along with a multitude of labor, student and community organizations, our outrage at the austerity policies being imposed on workers and poor families in Puerto Rico by the colonial "Fiscal Oversight Board" which was created under the U.S. Law called PROMESA. 

The imposition of a Fiscal Oversight Board is only the latest indignity perpetrated by the U.S. government against Puerto Ricans. This is a time in Puerto Rico when even the most fundamental elements of democracy are being ignored: this Board was created by a Government for which we did not vote, and is composed of members whom we did not choose. This undemocratic Federal Board is demanding huge and widespread increases in taxes for working families, along with drastic reductions in essential public services such as education, health, and cuts in retired workers' pensions. 

In the case of the University of Puerto Rico, the colonial Board is demanding over $3 billion in cuts in the next 10 years, forcing the university administration to impose an enormous increase in tuition, reduce the operation and maintenance costs of its facilities, REDUCE the number of faculty and non-teaching employees on its payroll, and eliminate hard-won benefits in their contracts.  

The proposed cuts come on top of 10 years of disinvestment in public education.  In fact, since 2009 the University has lost over 900 faculty and non-teaching positions, totalling $312 million in cuts to salaries and benefits to workers.  Further cuts, as the Fiscal Oversight Board is requiring, would mean the end of the Puerto Rico's public higher education project. The UPR has served historically as an instrument that develops and stimulates critical thinking. From its heart, important proposals have been born that question our reality and that propose alternate futures for the development of our society.

The Fiscal Oversight Board wants to domesticate the UPR, making it serve only the momentary needs of the market and not the public good. It wants a university that will serve the toxic policies of a government that promotes its right-wing ideology. Puerto Rico needs a vibrant public university that continues to stimulate thinking, asks tough questions, and activates the imagination.  Such a public university is essential if we want real solutions to the crisis that we are going through as a country-- a crisis that affects us all, but workers more than anyone else.

We demand that the U.S. Congress assume its responsibility in Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis, and create the conditions necessary for its resolution.  We also demand an independent audit of the country´s debt and that any private individual, company or government official who benefited from the debt be brought to justice. Finally, we demand that education and health be exempt from any further budget cuts.

APPU will march to reaffirm the struggle to save public higher education, and the fight against the austerity policies being forced on workers in Puerto Rico.  To defend the right to affordable, high-quality public education is to defend the living conditions of working people against the accumulation of profits by companies and the rich.  This undemocratic colonial Board, has been imposed upon Puerto Ricans to bleed us dry, destroying the living conditions of workers to pay an unpayable and potentially illegal public debt.   

Workers in Chicago and in Puerto Rico are struggling against similar threats: unemployment, discrimination, the elimination of labor rights, layoffs, pension cuts, reduced access to education, health and other social services, poverty and racism.  These austerity policies are criminal, unjust, and in the end will result in more misery, inequality, and preventable and unnecessary pain, deaths and suffering for all.  

We ask your solidarity in fighting the Fiscal Oversight Board, Junta de Control Fiscal Federal, its austerity policies, and its attempt to destroy the most important social mobility project in the past 113 years in Puerto Rico:  the University of Puerto Rico.  Increasing the cost of a university education will only leave us with lower levels of education, thus increasing poverty and social inequity.

It is necessary to forge a common front of the entire university community, and Puerto Ricans on the island and in the diáspora to stop this neoliberal offensive and defend our right to live in a more just and egalitarian society.

¡¡Viva la solidaridad de las trabajadoras y los trabajadores!!