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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Workers begin campaign against ‘anti-worker legislation’

Marchers demanded the reversal of policies that have harmed retirement systems and health services, and called for a government that prioritizes the well-being and rights of workers in its policies. (Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teaching Employees/Facebook)

By The Star Staff

More than 40 union organizations announced Wednesday from La Fortaleza in Old San Juan the launch of a campaign in defense of labor rights, and condemned legislation that reduces those rights and the measures that have increased poverty and emigration.

“Today in front of La Fortaleza we come to mark the beginning of a campaign in favor of the workers and all the people of Puerto Rico that we constitute together with social, civic, cultural, cooperative, environmental, professional, religious and political organizations, who believe, promote and practice social justice,” said UNETE President Liza Fournier said in a written statement.

The unions harshly criticized what they said is an alliance between the island Legislature, the governor and the Financial Oversight and Management Board, attributing to that alliance responsibility for several economic and social problems plaguing Puerto Rican workers.

The organizations’ demands include the elimination of “anti-worker legislation,” an end to the privatization of essential services, and the implementation of wage justice through collective bargaining.

In addition, protesters demanded the reversal of policies that have harmed retirement systems and health services, and called for a government that prioritizes the well-being and rights of workers in its policies.

The campaign will seek to influence the upcoming primary and general elections, promoting legislative change that favors the working class and establishes a more equitable framework of social and labor justice, the organizations said.

More than 30 union and social groups marched in the rain from the Capitol to La Fortaleza to commemorate International Workers’ Day. The event, dubbed “A Get-Together Between Private Business and the Government,” focused on the fight for the rights and benefits of Puerto Rican workers. Union leaders, such as Israel Marrero of the Puerto Rican Union of Workers, highlighted the importance of unity between unions and other groups to confront the interference of the oversight board and other socioeconomic challenges.

Among the main demands were the departure of the board, the repeal of the labor reform, and an increase in the minimum wage. Also highlighted in the May Day march was the diversity of the participants, including feminists, environmentalists and students, who came together in solidarity to promote significant change in Puerto Rico. The day also included a workers’ mass and expressions of solidarity toward all sectors of Puerto Rican society, underscoring the importance of the continued fight for fair labor rights and a better future for the island.

At a Mass for social justice and workers, Father Pedro urged fraternity and solidarity in response to government actions that he considers opportunistic. During the event, which took place under heavy rain in San Juan, the clergyman encouraged those present to remain united in the face of adversity and to fight for the dignity and rights of the working class.

“We cannot ‘get used’ to the situations of humiliation and misery that surround us,” Father Pedro emphasized, quoting Pope Francis to highlight the need for an active response committed to love and freedom in the face of social injustices. “A Christian has to react.”

The priest also called for direct and conscious action, alluding to the importance of defending the truth and rejecting error, as an essential part of the fight for justice.

“Many of our political leaders commit injustices against the people, apologize and then continue doing whatever they want,” he said, urging everyone to unite and continue walking as a people in the face of adversity. “Let us not allow injustices to be covered up as if they were mere mistakes.”

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