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Strike! Members of the Seccion 22 teachers' union in Oaxaca continue with direct actions
by kilo
Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
Continuing with a tradition of direct action even in the face of grave repression, the 70,000+ educators and other members of the Seccion 22 teachers' movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, met as an assembly and voted to strike on Saturday, May 21. Since Monday, May 23, the educational workers have occupied the zocalo (main square) of the state capital and the surrounding streets and have established rotating blockades at several key government buildings, corporate businesses, the airport, major intersections and have "liberated" privately-owned toll booths on the highway to Mexico City.
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Continuing with a tradition of direct action even in the face of grave repression, the 70,000+ educators and other members of the Seccion 22 teachers' movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, met as an assembly and voted to strike on Saturday, May 21. Since Monday, May 23, the educational workers have occupied the zocalo (main square) of the state capital and the surrounding streets and have established rotating blockades at several key government buildings, corporate businesses, the airport, major intersections and have "liberated" privately-owned toll booths on the highway to Mexico City.

It is striking to see just how different the response to direct action is in Oaxaca compared to the atmosphere in the United States. The educational workers show up in the morning in mass and announce to the workers at a particular location that they will be shutting down (or opening up in the case of the toll booths) the premises for the day. The government or corporate employees normally go home without incident, happy to be able to spend the day with their children (who are not attending school, due to the strike). Throughout the day, it is rare to see any police and if they happen to pass the occupation, they do not intervene. It demonstrates the real power that the teachers' movement has in relation to the forces of the state.

Contrast this with the reaction to direct action in the United States. Police violently remove demonstrators who dare to chain themselves to a door to blockade the entrance to a building. Participants are charged with felonies and are saddled with thousands of dollars in bail and legal costs. The security and legal apparatus of the US government has consolidated all power to directly influence the course of events and has made it almost prohibitive to challenge the powers that be with actions that truly threaten the interests of elites. In Oaxaca, it is understood amongst the educational workers that without this threat, the government will concede nothing. For the past 31 years, the Seccion 22 has utilized these tactics and has incrementally built power, to the point where members are paid even while on strike.

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 privatize education by entrenching 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 Rene 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.

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.
§March to the zocalo at 11pm
by kilo Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
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The educational workers in this march are from schools in the Sierra, mostly composed of indigenous communities
§"You can pass"
by kilo Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
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Empty toll booth with poster demanding the return of Carlos Rene Roman Salazar, an anarchist teacher who has gone missing since last month
§Liberation of the corporate toll booth
by kilo Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
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§All ages participating
by kilo Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
§Green light for all today
by kilo Saturday May 28th, 2011 1:32 PM
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