Puerto Rican public workers strike

New legislation passed this year allows Fortuño to dismiss public-sector employees, and union contracts can offer no protection.

Currently, thousands of protesters are rallying against the government in San Juan, Puerto Rico (EST).  Public workers are striking after Governor Luis Fortuño — a former Republican, or Partido Nuevo Progresista and delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, announced a layoff of nearly 17,000 public workers on September 25.  Combined with a prior layoff of about 20,000 public workers, the government hopes to precipitate a closing of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 billion dollar deficit.

According to Socialist Worker:

Law 7, passed in March, allows Fortuño to unilaterally dismiss public-sector workers, overriding labor laws that previously prohibited such actions. Union contracts are no protection for workers, either: Law 7 effectively voids any job protections they may contain. What’s more, Law 7 clears the way for even more radical reduction in the number of public-sector workers by allowing for “Public-Private Alliances”–a euphemistic phrase for handing over government functions to private corporations.

Both liberal and conservative worker unions called for today’s public workers strike in an attempt to halt government activity and stave off the November 6 effective date.  It is unknown how long the strike will last if the government does not reposition.  Largely organized byAFL-CIO, Change to Win, and SEIU, unions took a nod from college student protesters, whose rallying around laid-off university teachers and workers has been ongoing this month.  University of Puerto Rico is closed this week to protect its students and community.

Gov. Fortuño premptively responded to protests by threatening to arrest protestors for “terrorism.” Needless to say, Puerto Rican workers are just as, if not more, pissed now.  So far, no arrests or injuries have been reported, even with the SEIU claim that this is the largest protest gathering in Puerto Rican history. President Obama, Puerto Rico’s head of state, has yet to comment on Gov. Fortuño’s actions, or anything relating to the strike movement.

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