The international press is concealing, behind the news of climate strikes and the extinction rebellion circus in Switzerland, a global movement of struggles in which school workers fight for similar demands across class lines and often increasingly on the margins of trade unions
Last week there was a one-day union strike in the Basque Country, with closed schools and school buses running almost without students. It wasn’t just the teachers, there was also a large following among the school canteen workers. Even in the basque ikastola schools, where teachers were expected not to strike, there was a 65% follow-up.
However, the one-day union strike in Andalusia was a disaster. The unions went their separate ways, with ridiculous scenes of unions demonstrating for lower ratios in the schools but refusing to strike alongside others who were striking.
Yesterday, September 22, a teachers’ strike was called in the Community of Madrid. It will be followed by another one in the community of Murcia. The situation in Madrid is serious, there are between 1400 and 1500 teachers missing and there are too many students per classroom to be able to ensure a minimum distance and safety conditions. To make matters worse, the minimum services during the strike in Madrid are 100% in primary school and 90 to 95% in the rest of the educational levels. However, there is no shortage of attempts to instrumentalize this by the governing parties. To the PSOE in Madrid, it seems extremely reasonable for teachers to strike, as long as it occurs within the Community of Madrid. Podemos supports the strike in Murcia as long as it is useful for attacking the regional administration. The regional councillor would have become incapable of leading the educational community through the challenges that lie ahead. Who would say that Podemos and PSOE make up the Spanish central government and are the figureheads of this operation back to school no matter what.
Between the union discord and the instrumentalization of the governing parties, the days of strike produce results that are at least unequal, but they are by no means the only strikes underway during these days. Outside of the union calls, several schools have gone on strike on their own, such as the Schools of Agua Dulce and Cuatro Caños in Almería.
France, Portugal, USA…
Self-organized strikes are still happening in French high schools and schools, inside and outside of the union calls. In Brittany, the Paris region, the Loire valley and the South among many others. Just yesterday there was a strike in the educational city of Bondy, where teachers protested against the new governmental measures, especially because the French government decided to stop quarantining uninfected students in a class affected by covid.
As announced by the government last week, the health rules will be relaxed in educational establishments from Tuesday, September 22. From now on, if a child tests positive, his class will be able to continue the courses normally, when until now they were closed.
The phenomenon is spreading internationally, from schools in Portugal -where they ask for a reduction in the number of students per class- to the USA passing through Belgian nurseries. Everywhere and over every border and union apparatus, teachers, cleaning, catering and transport staff are fighting for the same demands: more staff, fewer pupils per class, better security measures. Last but not least, parents and students are joining them in many places.
This is a global movement that is overcoming the trade divisions within schools, incorporating other workers beyond individual schools into the demands, and organizing on the margins of the unions. All within a global framework of rising struggles.
That is, we have a first outline and some first conditions of centralization. For the moment these are isolated schools, many, but still isolated. A good part of them are trying to rely on union calls to take this centralization further and meet with others. It doesn’t work and can’t work. The role of the unions is not to extend the struggles but to redirect them from the class terrain in which they are taking place of their own accord, to the sterile plane of the petty right-left electoral battle to keep everyone working beyond the minimum reasonable, as we have seen in Madrid. But there is still a lot of battle ahead. And the way is already open.