Teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico are occupying the main square of the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez, in opposition to neo-liberal education reform. The teachers are members of section 22 of the SNTE union. They are resisting US-style Ed Deform being imposed on them by the Alliance for Quality in Education (ACE) law. According to the Teacher Solidarity website, this law would increase standardized testing, consolidate curriculum and makes teachers’ jobs temporary.
On May 21, the union voted to strike. On May 23, they began their strike with protest marches converging on the Zocalo (main square) of Tuxtla. (From Riseup.net) Teachers have also set up blockades at several government buildings and corporate businesses. They are demanding the repeal of ACE, an expansion of the free meal program for students, salary increases, and the return of teacher Carlos Rene Roman Salazar, who was disappeared in April.
Section 22 is organized as an industrial union, rather than a trade union, as it includes teachers, psychologists, janitors and others in the education industry. As such, the union is much more powerful than a trade union, since trade unions have a tendency to promote competition between workers in different trades, rather than the solidarity that is required to fight the larger battles that affect all workers. Furthermore, it is much easier to get all members of an industry to participate in direct action when they are all members of the same union. Thus, teachers, psychologists and janitors can all be found together at the barricades and the Zocalo.
Section 22 has been engaged in ongoing struggles against the state, including an uprising in 2006 that included a 6-month work stoppage and occupation of Oaxaca city. During the uprising there were numerous assassinations of teachers and their supporters. An American journalist who was covering the movement was also shot and killed by vigilantes. (See here and here)