Union: Candidates for governor have turned their backs on workers
By John McPhaul
Despite making promises in the campaign, most of the candidates for governor “turned their backs on workers” by not signing an agreement consisting of 20 commitments to defend their rights, charged Puerto Rico Workers Federation (FTPR-AFLCIO) President José Rodríguez Báez on Thursday.
The union leader said the document was intended to measure the aspirants’ commitment to labor rights, but also to the search for solutions to social ills that concern working people.
“Beyond saying that they do not support more [job] cuts and taxes, the union members of the country demand a strong commitment,” Rodríguez Báez said. “We need a governor who shows us that she or he really believes in the rights and issues that matter to working people.”
The agreement with the 20 commitments was sent to the six candidates for governor on Oct. 9. The deadline to reply expired last Monday, Oct. 19.
Sen. Juan Dalmau Ramírez, the candidate for governor for the Puerto Rican Independence Party, was the only one of the six candidates who signed the pact on Oct. 17, Rodríguez Báez said.
“In the Federation we call on working people to be very prudent and to evaluate the candidates well before exercising their right to vote. Examine their government plans and judge whether or not they are on the side of the workers,” he said. “This exercise that we did at the FTPR is an example of where their loyalties lie.”
The union leader said that in the document of commitments the candidates were required to commit to respecting acquired benefits and repealing the labor reform, to promoting wage equity for female workers, increasing the minimum wage to $15, promoting decent and quality jobs, and promoting training and retraining in technical and innovation areas. Likewise, they demanded that the applicants guarantee the collective bargaining agreements and that they reopen the negotiation process in the government in June of next year.
The workers demanded that the candidates commit to unionization, that they reject the imposition of more austerity and fiscal emergency laws and any measure that threatens job security. In addition, they demanded a commitment to the permanence of temporary or contract employees in regular functions, to protecting the retirement systems and to carrying out a tax reform that does justice to working families. They required that the Environmental Quality Board be excluded from the reorganization of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources because it represents a conflict of interest with the functions of both agencies.
The document of commitments also sought to ensure that the applicants reject privatization, guarantee a universal health system, defend the public education system and promote educational reform. The FTPR also advocated that the candidates commit to the University of Puerto Rico by declaring it an essential service and respecting the budget formula.
The union demanded that the candidates allocate resources to the recovery of the island, guaranteeing jobs and the inclusion of communities. It also required that they commit to fighting corruption and establishing transparency for that purpose.