Clayton Beverly is among teachers and activists who gathered last month outside the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque, New México. The protesters demanded a halt to government attacks against Mexican teachers, an immediate dialogue with the striking National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) and the release of jailed union leaders who are now “political prisoners in México,” said Beverly, who is a member of the Albuquerque Caucus of Rank and File Educators.
Activists also called for justice in the case of the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa college students, and linked the struggle of Indigenous people in the United States with the movement of teachers in the Mexican state Oaxaca, where Indigenous people form a large percentage of the population.
According to Beverly, consular officials assured the protesters that a “full and impartial investigation” was underway of the June 19th, Nochixtlan Massacre, when at least nine people were killed after police opened fire on striking teachers and townspeople in Oaxaca.
Separately, Oaxaca teacher José Caballero Julian was buried the first week of July after finally succumbing to injuries sustained during the police eviction last month of protesters occupying the Oaxaca State Public Education Institute last month. According to México’s Proceso magazine, more than 100 members of the teacher union’s Section 22 in Oaxaca have been murdered over the years.
Additional groups participating in the Albuquerque protest included the Southwest Organizing Project, The Red Nation and the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, among others.
The recent New México action was just one of hundreds that are sweeping Europe, Australia, Latin América and North América in support of Mexican teachers who struggling to overturn the 2013 education reform pushed by the Peña Nieto administration and approved by the Mexican Congress.
Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the AFL-CIO have issued statements condemning the Nochixtlan violence and the attacks on teachers.
María Moreno, Chicago Teachers Union financial secretary, said union members and other activists held two protests at the Mexican Consulate in her city, the first in May when the Mexican government fired thousands of teachers and the second in June after the Nochixtlan Massacre.
“It’s a really important thing that educators in the U.S. support the struggle that the teachers in México are waging,” the 14-year veteran of the Chicago public schools and union added.
In Albuquerque, a resolution pending with the local affiliate of the AFT expresses solidarity with the CNTE and the teachers who have been fired for not taking the government-mandated evaluation tests.
Along with the pro-CNTE resolution, the union activists are mulling a resolution in support of The Red Nation’s campaign to abolish the official University of New México seal deemed racist, and to compel the university to adopt policies that respect Native culture and the involvement of Indigenous students and scholars in the life of the institution.
In 2016, activists are contemplating September actions to mark the second anniversary of the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa college student teachers in Iguala, México, and World Teacher Day on October 5, Moreno said.
Coalition activists are also broadening their work with young people who are becoming increasingly active around educational issues, she added.
The struggle of Puerto Rican educators and students against the austerity regime being foisted on the U.S. colony also resonates in Chicago, home to a large Puerto Rican community. “We also stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican teachers and their unions who are trying to stop this,” Moreno affirmed.
Standardized testing is also a contentious issue in the United States, where the academic assessment method was virtually institutionalized by the No Child Left Behind Law and a host of similar state-based laws and regulations. It has also proven to be a lucrative business for private testing firms like Pearson.
In February and March 2015 thousands of New México high school and middle school students voted no against Pearson’s PARCC, a state mandated test, by staging historic walkouts across the state. The protest netted a partial victory, with the time dedicated to PARCC significantly reduced but not entirely eliminated.
“I would say that is a major victory,” Beverly opined. “The governor and the PED (Public Education Department) would never say that, but I think it was direct action from students, protests, that pushed that into being.”
For Beverly clear parallels exist between the struggle of the Mexican teachers and their counterparts in the U.S.
“I think we are both fighting the corporate neoliberal education reform that is being imposed to break the power of organized labor and open up the market for people to make a lot of money off of it,” he said. Beverly added that the conditions confronting U.S. and Mexican teachers are not exactly the same since the latter face far more repression and impoverishment than do their northern colleagues.
“We support the teachers in México. Their struggle is our struggle in the U.S.,” said the CTU’s María Moreno. “It’s a huge fight, and a lot of these policies originated in the U.S. with this corporate education reform.”