Teachers to walk out for a second straight day today
By John McPhaul
Teachers will stage a walkout and march for a second straight day today, when teachers’ representatives will meet with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, Puerto Rico Federation of Teachers President Mercedes Martínez Padilla told the press on Wednesday.
“He didn’t attend to us, well then we will return tomorrow,” Martínez Padilla said after thousands of public workers marched on La Fortaleza on Wednesday in what leaders termed “The Great March of Indignation” demanding better wages and a “dignified retirement.”
Public workers from other government agencies joined thousands of public school teachers in the morning at a rally in Luis Muñoz Rivera Park in San Juan, then proceeded to march to Old San Juan where they were joined by firefighters who had met for their own rally in front of the Capitol.
The protesters carried placards -- among which were calls for the governor to resign -- such as “No PROMISES; Dignified Retirement, Salary Justice” and “Classes Are in the Streets Today.”
Chants included the familiar “The people united will never be defeated.”
La Fortaleza officials who met with the march leaders said the governor would not speak with the protesters on Wednesday because he was not in the Executive Mansion. However, officials said a meeting would take place today.
Pierluisi will meet with teachers’ representatives at 10 a.m. today, Martínez Padilla told the press.
“It seems that he does not want this to end because the abuse has not ended,” she said. “The teaching profession demands respect; our pensions will be respected.”
The governor later on Wednesday denied accusations that he has turned his back on public workers, teachers included.
“I’ve never said anything against public employees,” Pierluisi said. “I’ve always expressed solidarity with public employees. What I’ve said is that essential services of the government should not be interrupted.”
The governor also told the press that he is committed to giving firefighters raises to bring their base salary to $2,500.
“We are going to use ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds to the extent that we have them available, if not from other funds that we will identify,” Pierluisi said.
Because of the meeting, Martínez Padilla called for another rally and march for today to meet in front of the Capitol.
The protests notwithstanding, the island Education Department announced that just over 18 percent of educators reported to work at public schools on Wednesday.
According to the department’s official Twitter account, with 719 schools reporting, some 3,489 teachers were at work.
In addition, 37 percent of other educators went to work, for some 758 employees.
Likewise, the non-teaching staff reached 85 percent, for 9,681 employees.
Finally, 564 school directors, or 78 percent, reported for work.