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May Day 2012 in Oaxaca, Mexico

By • May 4th, 2012 • Category: News & Analysis


By Nancy Davies

Source: OSAG


Because I live in the inner city, I march with sanitation workers and
construction workers.

I  march with the electric workers because I need power, and with telephone
workers because I depend on the internet. I march with health and hospital
workers because I am elderly. I  march with education workers because I
have a great grandson, and because I hope he will visit Oaxaca some day, I
march with the *transportistas* who care for roads and airports.

In the interest of full disclosure, I thrill to the chant, “*el sindicato
unido jamás sera vencido*”. These unions work for the government, there are
no private unionized industries here. I support all union demands:
medicines for the hospitals, roofs for the schools, and decent wages in
these times of high inflation. I support their unending struggle against
oppression, repression, corruption, nepotism ignorance and theft, which is
the reason the hospitals lack technology and the schools lack bathrooms —
not because Mexicans are too dumb to know that a school needs electric
power to run telecomputer classes, and running water for basic sanitation.
All such demands must go to and through the state and federal governments,
the only formal employers. The other half of Oaxaca’s working population is
“self-employed”, a euphemism for dirt farmers, artisans or shop-keepers;
bus drivers, taxi drivers, waiters and hotel workers are not unionized.

I heard no chants today condemning Governor Gabino Cué personally, only the
general condemnations of “government”. Corruption is not limited to
government, it abounds among private owners and unions, too. But on Labor
Day leaders speak from the heart of yearning, for all things pointing to a
better life, obtainable or not. It is the task of all unions, not just the
Education Workers, to present demands, employing whatever rhetoric they
can; this is what unions do.

Today, as every May 1 in Oaxaca, the sun blasted the marchers. The women
lofted umbrellas. Some wore hats. No one carried a child, an unusual sight,
to see Oaxaca adults childless. The speeches and slogans conformed to what
speeches and slogans usually demand. Street vendors, taking shelter under
the wing of Labor Day union workers, unmolested covered zócalo streets and
sidewalks with embroidered blouses, ceramics, spoons.  Police riding ahead
and behind escorted the march elements, others tried to re-route traffic.
By two o’clock the union marchers departed.

Oaxaca is not Mexico City. Oaxaca is not Chicago or Oakland. In Oaxaca,
protests have been stubborn, unrelenting, repetitive, an unending response
to poverty, neglect and corruption. No Occupiers here. Only government

Officially thirty unions marched. *Milenio* reported some internal scuffles
but none serious. Section 22 of  SNTE brought a petition to Gabino Cué;
about 50,000 teachers marched in Oaxaca while another contingent went to
DF. They demand satisfactory and prompt replies in the areas of education,
social and political justice, and acceptance of the union’s plan for
Transformation of Education in Oaxaca, a localized vision which contrasts
with the national proposals for more uniformity and testing. If union
demands are not met with reasonable response, 22 will continue class
closures and marches, including on May 15. Section 22 has already rejected
Cue’s “pact for governability” (in other words, let the traffic roll),
it to be a co-option aiming to maintain “a closed-door policy against
attending to social problems”. The pact is a political maneuver, they say,
which at its base seeks to criminalize free demonstrations (march, block
roads and buildings) “because it is a strategy of the capitalist system”.

May 15 is the date for the Section 22’s Statewide Assembly, in which
delegates make decisions for the union, such as a work-stoppage for their
70,000 workers, as in the initiation of the social movement in 2006.

However, it’s difficult to portray Cue as an “enemy” due to his couth
(unlike Ulises Ruiz the uncouth) and law-abiding approach. Cue hasn’t done
much in the way of dealing with serious issues like mining, land usurpation
or the Triqui territory, nor has he (as far as we know) sent out assassins.
That is, as a polite neoliberal, he is much more difficult to deal with.
Other unions who responded to complaints against closed offices and blocked
traffic signed the “pact”. SNTE’s rejection suggests to me a somewhat more
sophisticated response, but carrying risks, as teachers are portrayed as
“bad guys” who interfere with ordinary citizens’ rights.

Correct. The poor, unemployed, underemployed and uneducated have few rights
to be jeopardized.


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