Educational Workers of the Sección 22 Union Occupy the Zocalo in Oaxaca

by kilo | Bay Area Indymedia (Tuesday May 24th, 2011)

Continuing with a tradition of direct action even in the face of grave repression, the 70,000+ educators and other members of the Sección 22 teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, met as an assembly and voted to strike on Saturday, May 21. On Monday, following marches that converged from 4 locations, the educational workers occupied the Zocalo (main square) of the state capital and have established rotating blockades at several government buildings and corporate businesses.

The members of the Seccion 22 will continue with the blockades and occupations until they are satisfied by the response of the government to their demands. These demands include a rejection of a US-style educational law (the Alliance for the Quality of Education, or the ACE) that would further entrench standardized tests and curriculum and introduce yearly contracts instead of tenure. The Oaxacan educational workers (which include psychologists, janitors, security guards, administrators, among others) are the last to maintain resistance to this law on a national level. The teachers also demand the return of their comrade, Carlos René Roman Salazar, a teacher who has gone missing since mid-April. They also want more funds for technology, an expanded free meal program for students in schools and salary increases.

The mainstream press in Oaxaca, dominated by the interests of the elites, focus on the salary demands of the educational workers and claim that strikes and occupations are antiquated tactics unbefitting of professional state employees. On the contrary, the democratic direct actions of the Seccion 22 are the reason why the state and its allies fear their power and go to such great lengths to discredit their movement. It is also why teachers in Oaxaca have a much greater voice in how schools are run than educational workers in other states.

The newspapers that represent the voice of the rich in Oaxaca also predict economic turmoil due to a disruption in the flow of tourism and commerce that is caused by the blockades. The members of the Seccion 22 respond that their occupation of the Zocalo and the blocks that surround it actually boost the economy by supporting an influx of street vendors and other members of the informal sector.

It is a sight to behold. Thousands of educational workers camped out under tarps and in tents in places that previously were tidy, docile public spaces. Banners that announce their region and demands and women cooking food on comals. It is a maze of bodies and plastic and one has to duck to not crash into the ropes that hold up the shelters.

Oaxaca now has a new governor, Gabino Cue, that for the first time in 80 years of “democracy” is not a member of the PRI political party. The members of the Seccion 22 hope that this means that their strike will be resolved within a week instead of the 6 months of work stoppage and numerous murders and acts of repression that led to the barricades and “Oaxaca Commune” of 2006. In the days that come, we will see just how willing the federal and state governments are to acquiesce to the demands for social justice and allow the educational workers to return to their schools and to their commitment to the students, families and communities.

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