Saturday, October 17, 2009

Puerto Rico On Strike

While CNN was obsessing over that damn Balloon Boy (who wasn't actually in the balloon and therefore was an even bigger waste of time than tea party protests), Puerto Rico had a historic general strike. Estimates range between 100,000-200,000 people in the streets marching. Of course, the corporate media ignored it. I wrote about it for Global Comment--as usual, I'll start the piece here and encourage you to read it over there, since they help pay my bills (and there's other stuff worth reading there as well!)

Fortuño’s plans fought: lessons from protest in Puerto Rico

I’ve seen a focus in the United States on mass political action in the past year like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime. From the huge crowds at Barack Obama’s campaign rallies and the unprecedented amount of donors and volunteers that helped elect the man President to the recent cynical discovery of organized dissent by the Republican party, we’ve watched groups large and small take to the streets.

Whether this is a sign of a newly energized, engaged American body politic will take some time to say. After all, some demonstrations still receive more attention than others, with the right-wing media machine led by FOX News trumpeting the success and inflating the numbers of tea party protests while decrying protests from the left, and the purported liberal media spending a good chunk of time arguing those numbers and attempting to root out the funders behind the right-wing actions—often while genuine grassroots action goes on under their noses, ignored or even punished by those in charge.

Almost completely ignored this week was the one-day general strike in Puerto Rico following the attempted imposition of shock-therapy-style economic reforms by the new governor. Chief among those reforms was a decision to lay off more than 20,000 public employees. The layoffs would drive Puerto Rico’s already-astounding 15 percent unemployment rate to over 17 percent.

More than 100,000 workers took to the streets to protest on October 15–Eliseo Medina, Service Employees International Union Executive Vice President, told me he thought the crowd was over 150,000. “It was tremendous. I’ve been in the labor movement for 44 years and this was the most impressive event I’ve ever seen. It was up there with the immigrant mobilizations of 2006,” Medina said. “It was one of the most diverse events that I’ve ever seen in a society. Lawyers, workers, students, psychologists, priests and minsters and nuns and everyday people. It was truly an amazing sight. It was pretty clear, our rejection of Governor Fortuño’s policies.”

Read the whole thing.