Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Oaxacan Teachers Resist Tests, Merit Pay—Strikes to Spread Throughout Mexico?

On May 23, 70,000 teachers struck in Oaxaca, Mexico. They were not asking for raises or better benefits, though they certainly need them. They were demanding better funding for their students and expressing their opposition to the government’s merit pay plan that ties teacher pay to their students’ score on the new national test. Many teachers oppose the test entirely and have refused to administer it, despite the fact that their union president signed a pact with the government accepting the merit pay scheme. The new national education law, Alliance for the Quality of Education (ACE), also replaces tenure with yearly contracts. According to Labor Notes, the teachers also want the Oaxacan government to pay for the schools’ utility bills, rather than charging parents, most of whom are struggling to pay their own bills and feed their children. They also want computers installed in the schools.

Oaxacan Teachers Strike (from the South Notes website)

The strike action included blockades of government offices and private businesses. Teachers also shut down major intersections and “liberated” the toll booths on the private highway from Oaxaca to Mexico City (see Indy Bay). South Notes says that Seccion 22, the Oaxacan local, intends to continue their strike through June 3. Labor Notes reports that other teacher locals could join the Oaxacan strike, including those in Chiapas, Michoacan, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Baja California Sur, and the Federal District, and that the opposition caucus within the union is organizing for a general strike to oppose the test.

Oaxacan teachers have been at the forefront of Mexico’s labor movement, engaging in job actions nearly every year for the past 30 years, according to Indy Bay. However, in 2006, they went on a protracted strike in which they erected barricades, took over radio stations and set up a camp in the Zocalo, in Oaxaca town. Then-Governor Ulises Ruíz sent in the police to attack striking teachers as they slept. He was also probably complicit in the creation of the death squads that killed over 20 teachers and their supporters (See here and here).

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