The 2013 CISPES Labor Solidarity Tour is off to a fantastic start as Salvadoran union leaders Alex Gomez and Jaime Rivera tour the United States, denouncing a US-backed Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law proposal and calling for solidarity from US labor to protect public services and defend public sector workers from this privatization attack.
Alex Gomez, Treasurer of the Federation of Public Service Workers of El Salvador (FESTRASPES), kicked off the West Coast Labor Solidarity Tour with an action-packed three days in Seattle. Upon arrival at SeaTac airport on February 2nd, Alex gave a statement of solidarity with subcontracted airport workers organizing for better labor conditions; the next morning he met with local leaders from 15 different union and labor organizations in downtown Seattle, then participated in a public speak-out in front of the Seattle World Trade Center condemning US support for the P3 Law.
“This law is being pushed by the United States government in El Salvador because it sees that in El Salvador there are natural resources that their corporations could make a profit off of, and that there are state services that are provided to people that could be a lucrative private business,” said Alex on Monday. “That’s why the solidarity of Seattle and US workers is so important, because we know that it’s the US government that is pressuring Central American governments, and particularly El Salvador, to pass this law that would turn the few state resources we have over to private hands.”
Alex finished his first leg of the tour with a lively 50-person discussion at Seattle University, and on February 5th he made his way to Portland, Oregon, stopping en route to Olympia, Washington for a public event at Evergreen State College. For details on Alex’s remaining events in Portland, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Los Angeles, click here.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Jaime Rivera, a long-time leader in the Salvadoran labor movement and Executive Board member of the Electrical Sector Workers Union (STSEL), began the East Coast Labor Solidarity Tour.
He was welcomed by US labor movement leaders and allies at the AFL-CIO headquarters, where Gary Ruffner, National Secretary-Treasurer of the Utility Workers Union of America, drew some illuminating parallels between the deregulation and privatization of utilities including water, electricity and gas in the US and in El Salvador, in both cases leading to a decrease in the quality of services, an increase in prices for consumers, and more precarious conditions for workers.
As Jaime later told Salvadoran community leaders and Salvadoran union organizers from the SEIU and LiUNA, “This matter goes far beyond what will happen to us as workers. This is a matter of defending our national assets, of not allowing them to be turned over to private hands, who will profit off of our infrastructure and national resources at the expense of our people.”
On Capitol Hill, Jaime met with various Congressional offices to strategize about ways to get the US State Department and US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte to stop conditioning further Millennium Challenge Fund grants on the passage of this unpopular P3 Law, which he said, “goes fully against the interests of workers, of our population, and of the nation itself,” and made it clear that the Ambassador’s comments are a “clear example of interference in our country’s self-determination.” For details on Jaime’s remaining events in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, click here.