María del Carmen Gutiérrez Rodríguez
SAN JUAN—Puerto Rico teachers union the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and its national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, have joined Puerto Rico's governor in his legal fight against the island's fiscal control board.
Last month, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was sued in bankruptcy court by the unelected, New York-based board after he rejected its demands to slash pensions and enforce furloughs on the island's teachers and public servants. The proposed furloughs would force teachers and other public employees to stay home without pay, denying children and communities essential services. The pension cuts would strip retirees of urgently needed income.
Yesterday, AMPR, its bargaining agent (AMPR-Local Sindical) and the AFT, together with other public employee unions, filed a motion seeking to intervene in the case.
"Teachers and public employees support the governor's decision not to impose a reduction in working hours or a reduction in the pensions of public sector workers. If the control board's proposal is enacted, it would be harmful because it would bring economic crisis to many Puerto Rican homes and families," said AMPR President Aida Diaz.
"No one on the board wants to talk about the devastating impact this will have on schools and communities."
Diaz said that there are numerous other fiscal options available to help solve Puerto Rico's debt crisis short of attacking teachers, including cuts to corporate welfare outlined by the Puerto Rico Economists Association.
"Ninety-three percent of economists surveyed favor eliminating subsidies and incentives for companies that do not create jobs, and 78 percent favored raising taxes on luxury goods and services. These are just some of the alternative measures that can be taken to avoid hurting teachers, public workers and our economy," Diaz said.
"AMPR members are central to the lawsuit because the union's 40,000-strong membership consists of active and retired teachers who do not have Social Security or any other safety net. A reduction in retirees' pensions and in the salaries of serving teachers will be catastrophic."
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: "The governor was right to reject the fiscal control board's cynical and irresponsible demands that Puerto Rico's debt crisis be fixed on the backs of working families. The devastation of Hurricane Irma only makes the situation more urgent. That's why we're intervening in this suit, to stop an unelected, New York-based board from riding roughshod over a democratically elected governor. We can work together to rebuild the Puerto Rico economy, but only if the will of the people, not Wall Street, is respected."
Last month, AMPR members voted overwhelmingly to join the 1.7 million-member AFT at a meeting in San Juan.
In making this statement, the AFT, which serves on the Creditors' Committee as the authorized agent of the AMPR/Local Sindical in the bankruptcy proceedings of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and certain of its instrumentalities, is not representing or speaking on behalf of the Creditors' Committee.