18 July 2006

Strike violence dampens Oaxaca economy

The eight-week long Oaxaca teachers' strike, which has at times turned violent, forced the postponement of the centuries-old Guelaguetza, a popular summer festival, celebrating the region's Indigenous cultures. A local business group pegged the economic damage at 504 million pesos as striking teachers occupy parts of the state capital's historic center and block access to Guelaguetza facilities. The teachers previously mused about blockading polling stations on July 2 and have shut down state highways. (Schools often host voting stations.) The potential for violence prompted the Canadian government to issue a travel advisory.

Teachers in Oaxaca strike like clockwork; they've hit the picket line every May for the past 26 years. According to Grupo Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento, the Oaxaca teachers receive aguinaldos (Christmas bonuses) worth 90 days pay. Teachers in Mexico earn an entry-level salary of approximately 11,000 pesos ($1,000) per month, but in Oaxaca, they're given far more benefits and bonuses. Test scores in Oaxaca - one of the Republic's most poor and underdeveloped states - rank among the worst in Mexico

Several teachers unions in Canada and the United States back their Oaxaca counterparts. Some cite a June 14 dust up between police and teachers in Oaxaca city as the reason.

The teachers, however, have moved well beyond asking for wage increases and are now demanding the head of PRI governor Ulises Ruiz. (Oaxaca has always elected PRI governors). Their actions are killing the state economy. This is yet another example of irresponsible union action - and violence, or at least the threat of it, surfaces far too often.

No comments: