By ALFREDO ALVARADO
As Puerto Rico struggles with a staggering $70 billion debt owed to private investors and banks, union and community activists in New York City gathered at a teach-in to learn more about the island’s struggling economy and discuss ways to build a movement to support workers on the island.
The teach-in was held at Local 32 BJ headquarters on May 14 and was organized by Vamos4PR, a coalition of labor unions, among them DC 37, and community activists that have been meeting since February.
“The way forward cannot come at the expense of working people,” said Hector Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ, in his opening remarks.
Cesar Ayala, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, spoke about the island’s faltering economy.
“What makes Puerto Rico unique is that their economy is totally controlled by foreign corporations,” he said.
The Puerto Rican government has responded to the fiscal crisis by closing more than 100 public schools, raising the sales tax and laying off thousands of government workers.
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido gave the closing remarks and criticized the hedge funds for their excessive fees and for demanding austerity policies that hurt Puerto Rican families.
Vamos4PR has called for an audit of the debt and a restructuring that does not place a bigger burden on working families and a moratorium on the debt.