From Bandera Roja
Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST)
Taller de Formación Política (TFP)
[Socialist Workers Movement
Workshop for Political Formation]

July 1998

Win the People's Strike!

by Frente Socialista [Socialist Front]

The country is going through an unprecedented historic period. The support that the people have shown for the strike of the telephone workers and for the general strike to prevent its sale and against privatization has shaken the employer-government. This massive support has made just and real the statement that the strike is not merely one of the telephone workers but is a genuine people's strike. It is a political strike against the public policy of privatization.

There is no doubt that the government finds itself more and more isolated. Rosselló [Governor of Puerto Rico] has begun to act in an erratic manner and has begun to feel pressure from elements of his own party to settle the matter. The political cost for his party has been brutal, both on the national and the international level. Banco Popular [bank involved in the purchase of the telephone company] has received unprecedented pressure. It is necessary to increase this pressure to try to break the financial support for the sale. The contract with GTE [company scheduled to purchase the major share of the telephone company] has been struck severe blows in the last weeks.

There were more than a few people who thought that the strike, while necessary, was impossible to win. It was more a symbolic act, even a form of pressure on the future owner of the Telephone Company to make them respect the rights of the workers. However, the strike has been shown to have the best conditions for victory. It is necessary to win the strike. The people have shown that they are ready to struggle. It is necessary for the leaders of the struggle rise to the occasion and to be able to lead the struggle to a historic victory for the workers and popular movement.

Despite the great victory represented by the 48-hour general strike called by the Broad Committee of Organizations [CAOS], a part of the leadership of the telephone workers has made very unfortunate expressions about the possible end of the telephone workers' strike on the basis of "negotiations" that would leave aside the essential matter of the sale of the Telephone Company. At a time when the government finds itself alone and isolated, and when the workers and popular movement have reached heights unprecedented in the history of the country, this sector of the leadership has given signs of weakness as if the strike has been a total disaster. It is necessary to stress the need to consult with the rank-and-file telephone workers on the picket lines and with the Broad Committee of Organizations before making declarations of this kind.

The telephone workers are on the road of struggle, and will not accept a surrender; the rank-and-file worker is more advanced and more ready to struggle than certain sectors of the leadership. This is the historic moment to continue the struggle, constantly raising it to higher levels. The people have expressed themselves and they are ready to struggle.

The leadership of the telephone workers and CAOS have shown the will to struggle needed to achieve victory. It is necessary to continue the strike in the country indefinitely. Sporadic strikes in different sectors should be the order of the day, while preparations are made for another big general strike. It is necessary to raise the militancy of the picket lines of the telephone workers to prevent the entrance and exit of strike-breakers of the different workshops of the company; on the one hand, to stress at a general meeting of the people the need to increase the pressure to avoid the strike being broken, and on the other hand, it requires that the telephone workers carefully evaluate how to regroup their forces to strengthen the workshops that have proven to be most sensitive for stopping production.

The leadership of the telephone workers' unions should re-evaluate the "agreements" that have supposedly been reached with the police which, although they are inadequate, have not even been respected, since we know that scabs who are not managers have been going in.

We have to maintain CAOS as a structure of broad and democratic discussion of the process of the strike and of the struggle against privatization. It is our duty to strengthen the support for the strike, both on a national and on an international level, a support which increases the pressure against the government and against the buyers, and which increases the economic support for the strike.

The government has its back to the wall. Let us keep up the militancy of the people. Let us rise to the occasion. Victory is ours.

Translated from article on the internet at:

Strike of the Telephone Workers of Puerto Rico Ends

by Jose Fortuño
for a-infos

The strike of the telephone workers of Puerto Rico has ended. Its end came in the middle of tumultuous assemblies, at which discussion of the agreements reached in negotiations with the employer was prevented, and led to physical attacks. Several reporters who covered the assembly were also attacked.

The first of the two assemblies of the day, that of the Independent Union of Telephone Employees (UIET), began with the presentation of the agreements reached. The agreements had remained secret since last Friday, and were summarized, not read directly, by the President of the UIET, José Juan Hernández.

The agreements included the issuing by the employer, of a letter of reprimand that will remain in the file of each worker for six months. The charges which had been brought against employees for violations of the law will be maintained. Management will withdraw the charges brought before the local Labor Relations Board, but without prejudice, that is to say, in case management deems it necessary, it can bring those charges again.

While the unions promise to maintain an attitude of respect and to promote efficiency of operations, management states that it will not pay salaries to its employees for the period of the strike, and will maintain a police force inside and outside the installations to guarantee order.

After having been presented, the agreements were given for immediate approval and without a vote. When several workers tried to take the floor to demand explanations, particularly the former President, Alfonso Benitez, but also others who supported Hernández, they were prevented by the discipline committee. Immediately, Hernández declared the meeting adjourned and left the place.

Heated discussions took place which led to various physical confrontations. Besides, several union members, among them several from the discipline committee, some in evident state of intoxication, attacked several reporters who were covering the events.

A group of workers immediately announced the formation of a new organization, called Telephone Workers against Privatization, took take up the struggle again. They accused Hernández of having given up the strike and of having betrayed the workers and the people who had supported them.

At the assembly of the Independent Brotherhood of Telephone Employees, although there was some discussion, the agreements were approved. The press was denied entrance and, on several occasions, organizers of the union insulted the reporters who, from the outside, tried to cover what was going on.

Workers at many centers throughout the country have shown their discontent with the agreements with the employer and with the anti-democratic methods and attacks. Cellular Plaza, one of the most active centers, announced that it was holding a picket at 7:00 A.M., before going back to work, to show their readiness to continue the struggle.

On a related matter, the Secretary of Labor, Cesár Almodóvar, under whose auspices the negotiations between the unions and the telephone company were held, announced this afternoon that he was resigning from his post to take up a position as a judge. In Puerto Rico, the step from an official to a judgeship is used as a reward.

On the other hand, the merger, with a value of $52.9 million, of the companies GTE and Bell Atlantic, has been confirmed.

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