Amended bill that would promote labor education receives support
By John McPhaul
As part of a public hearing of the Senate Human Rights and Labor Laws Committee chaired by Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, representatives of both the Education (DE) and Labor & Human Resources (DTRH by its Spanish initials) departments spoke in favor of amendments to Senate Bill 753, whose purpose is to create a scholastic course that promotes the recognition of the constitutional rights of workers in Puerto Rico.
“The bill goes much further, it is to make the curriculum visible in the courses. It’s a little bell as a reminder to the Department of Education that there is a constitutional mandate and that [the Education Department and] the Department of Labor and Human Resources work together so that it is visible,” said Rivera Lassén, a Citizen Victory Movement (MVC) senator who authored the measure. “From this becoming law, the constitutional mandate would be fulfilled that students receive a highly visible [labor] education, more so than what is happening now.”
Senate Bill 753 seeks to add a new subsection to the Educational Reform Law of Puerto Rico in order to provide that the Education secretary, in coordination with the DTRH, design a course on trade unionism, trade union organization, collective bargaining and other constitutional rights as established in sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Bill of Rights of the Puerto Rico Constitution.
“It being a matter of public policy, the DE favors turning into law what is already being worked on in the Social Studies Program in our current curriculum,” said social studies teacher Sheykirisabel Cucuta González on behalf of the DE. “This includes progressive teaching of these topics in the courses of the program as applicable to the level that students can understand …”
“This measure is part of a trilogy and the three form a set with the objective of trying to address a discrepancy that we detected in Puerto Rico, which is, on the one hand, we have a Constitution that is very advanced in the recognition of certain rights such as unionization,” said MVC Sen. Rafael Bernabe, who co-authored the bill. “However, in the private sector, the unionization rate is around two percent. That is an anomaly that we have to solve. DTRH and DE have to take action. Yes, if we maintain what currently exists, the discrepancy will continue. It’s not enough just to have some programs and Law 1, we need additional initiatives like this one.”