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Public Employee Press

Fightback by unions halts layoffs of 30,000 public workers in Puerto Rico

Braulio Torres, vice president of Council 95 in Puerto Rico. with DC 37 Interim Organizing Director Edgar deJesus, voice support for the island's workers at a news conference in June.

With Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño threatening to fire 30,000 public employees on July 1, unions on the mainland and on the island closed ranks in a show of solidarity that prevented the massive layoffs. Many of those workers are members of Council 95 of AFSCME, DC 37’s national union.

“This is an incredible victory,” said Edgar deJesus, DC 37 Interim Organizing Director. “AFSCME
played a crucial role for the workers and the people of Puerto Rico by preventing these layoffs.”

In addition to the devastating firings, Gov. Fortuño had planned to suspend the collective bargaining agreements between the government and the employees’ union.

In March, the governor introduced Public Law 7, which declared a state of fiscal emergency on the
island and allowed him to suspend the contracts for two years.

“The governor of Puerto Rico must honor labor agreements,” said City Councilman John Liu June 17 at a City Hall news conference held to show support for the Puerto Rican workers. “Public Law 7 fosters massive privatization, forcing workers to bear the burnt of the difficulties. This approach does not support the long-term prosperity of the people.”

The press conference bought together labor activists from DC 37, the United Auto Workers, 1199 SEIU, and the New York City Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Vice President Braulio Torres came from Puerto Rico to represent Council 95, which includes members who work in the island’s schools and correctional facilities.

“We are very proud to have received the support of so many of our brothers and sisters here in New York,” he said.

The speakers at the press conference also introduced a resolution in the City Council in support of Puerto Rico’s public-sector unions.

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts expressed her solidarity with the union members on the island. “An injury to the workers of Puerto Rico is an injury to all workers,” she said.



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