Your victory gives us strength

March 15, 2018

The strike by West Virginia teachers and school workers that ended in a victory has inspired millions across the U.S. with a glimpse of what is possible when working people fight for what they deserve.

That inspiration has carried beyond the U.S., as educators in other countries facing attacks on their own unions strategize about how to resist. Here, we reprint solidarity statements sent to the West Virginia teachers from Puerto Rico's Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico) and Mexico's Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers) and Coordinadora Nacional de Sindicatos Universitarios, de Educación Superior, Investigación y Cultura (National Coordinating Committee of University Unions, Higher Education, Research and Culture), in translations by Monique Dols and Todd Chretien. The statements were read at a solidarity meeting held in New York City, sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, Democratic Socialists of America and Jacobin magazine.

From the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico

To the victorious educators of West Virginia:

The Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico expresses its full solidarity with the teachers of West Virginia in their exemplary struggle to get a fair salary for education workers. We received the news that the strike ended with a guaranteed salary increase of 5 percent for educators and all state workers with great joy and satisfaction.

The strike lasted nine days, closing the public schools in all 55 counties in West Virginia, showing in practice that struggle and militancy can lead us to victory. Not even a Republican state government could stop these teachers.

The Federation of Teachers from Puerto Rico join in celebrating this great victory. We salute our union sisters and brothers from the trenches as we struggle in defense of public education, for the rights of educators and for our children's futures.

Back in 2008, Puerto Rican teachers carried out a successful strike that stopped the privatization of our school system. Today we are facing this attack on public education all over again. As we struggle to defend our schools, you serve as an inspiration to us for the battles we face against privatization. Your victory gives us the strength we need to, yet again, stop the imposition of charter schools in Puerto Rico.

Teachers show strength in unity during the West Virginia strike
Teachers show strength in unity during the West Virginia strike

Please accept our embrace and full support in your struggles.

Mercedes Martínez Padilla, president
Edwin L. Morales Laboy, vice president

Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación

Compañeras y compañeros:

Greetings to the sisters and brothers of West Virginia.

It is with great joy that we heard the news of your successful strike. Once again, you have demonstrated that, when thousands of teachers unite in defense of our rights and education as a right, we can win. That's right, we said WIN! A simple word that, after decades of attacks on workers around the world, becomes more than a concept. It means life, it means struggle, and it is our only acceptable goal.

What's more, you have won during the Trump era, which was touted as a period when we wouldn't be able to fight back against anti-worker attacks. And you, the brave and dignified educators of West Virginia, have shown that the only certainty is struggle, where victory lies in our own hands. In struggle we can win. It is so easy for us to be defeated when we don't struggle. But that is not our way, we will not go down without a fight. Our traditions are built on solidarity, dignity and holding our heads high. Our strength lies in our organization, in numbers and in the strike weapon.

As you can imagine, the mainstream media in Mexico did not even bother to broadcast a minute of TV news or print the tiniest note in the international section on your strike. How can we expect anything less from the same forces who criminalize us and make our own struggles here in Mexico invisible. But thanks to the bridges of solidarity that have been built in other struggles, we learned of your movement and victory.

Mexican teachers, from both sides of the border, feel your victory like it was our own. Here in Mexico, the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers has been fighting for years against so-called "education reforms" that criminalize teachers and rob them of their rights. Your example gives us hope and gives strength to carry on our fight.

Similarly, the National Coordinating Committee of University Unions, which is fighting every day for decent wages, feels empowered by the example you have given of how to fight. We stand strong in the belief that it is only the struggle of education workers that can defend our rights and win our battles, just as you did. And if we can start winning, we can keep winning.

Your victory is a step that will help us continue our fight. It is a step that helps us build cross-border bridges of solidarity and struggle for our common goal: the defense of public education, for the rights of educators, and for the consolidation of unions and workers organizations.

We send you a big embrace and all our respect for this, your first victory. And as we say here: "El maestro luchando, también está enseñando"--which means, "When teachers fight back, they are teaching."

Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación
Coordinadora Nacional de Sindicatos Universitarios, de Educación Superior, Investigación y Cultura

Translations by Monique Dols and Todd Chretien

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