MADISON, Wis. (May 1, 2017): In response to massive proposed budget cuts at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) passed a solidarity resolution supporting the ongoing student strike at UPR. The strike began April 5 to protest the historic budget cuts facing the 11-campus, 70,000-student university. Now nearing one month, the indefinite strike has gained support and momentum. Today, the students will be joined by other sectors in a national general strike to protest austerity measures.
The proposed UPR budget cuts of $450 million by 2021 place additional financial strain on a university that has already endured $348 million in cuts over the last three fiscal years. The student movement’s concerns center on fears that the budget cuts will affect the university’s ability to meet student needs, will compromise the academic integrity of the UPR and could result in the closing of campuses, and will significantly raise student tuition.
The cuts, along with many other austerity measures, are the result of the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act” passed by U.S. Congress in 2016. Also known as PROMESA, this bill gives autonomy to a Fiscal Control Board appointed directly by the U.S. President. The TAA acknowledges that this is an act of colonialism and encourages its members to contact their representatives to demand more accountability about the role of U.S. Congress in the current situation in Puerto Rico.
The TAA supports the UPR student strike and calls on other graduate worker unions in the states to join us. You can read the entire resolution below:
Solidarity with the University of Puerto Rico Student Movement
WHEREAS, Supreme Court case Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle (June 9, 2016) affirmed colonial status for Puerto Rico, denying Puerto Rico sovereignty similar to that of an independent nation, a US state or an indigenous tribe, and
WHEREAS, Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor dissented and argued that this ruling is not supported by a 1952 memorandum from the United States to the United Nations claiming that Puerto Rico had achieved “the full measure of self-government”, and
WHEREAS, Supreme Court case Puerto Rico v. California Tax-Free Trust (June 13, 2016) reaffirmed colonial status for Puerto Rico and denied municipalities the right to declare bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, and
WHEREAS, the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act”, or “PROMESA”, signed into law on June 30, 2016, acted upon this colonial status when it conferred complete autonomy and control over the Puerto Rican national budget and laws for a period of four years to a Fiscal Oversight Board appointed directly by the US President, and
WHEREAS, PROMESA was drafted and approved by US Congress, and signed by President Barack Obama, without representation from Puerto Rico, and
WHEREAS, the $73 billion debt crisis that PROMESA addresses is the result of of colonial tax laws –such as tax exemption for US subsidiaries from 1976-2006 and triple tax-exempt bonds– of corruption, and since 2014, increasingly of exploitation by hedge funds and vulture funds, and
WHEREAS, the Fiscal Oversight Board has dissolved the commission that audits the debt to ascertain how the debt was incurred and who is holding the debt, and
WHEREAS, the budget approved by PROMESA prioritizes repaying creditors at the expense of essential services for Puerto Rican citizens, such as healthcare, transportation, labor protections, a living wage, and education, and
WHEREAS, the University of Puerto Rico students held a national assembly on April 5, 2017, with attendance of over 10,000 students and with quorum for 8 out of 11 campuses as well as for the School of Visual Arts and Design as well as the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico, and
WHEREAS, on April 5, 2017, the University of Puerto Rico system voted to approve a system-wide indefinite strike until the following demands are met:
- No penalties for students participating in striking activities
- A university reform that represents all sectors from the university community
- The restitution of a civic commission that audits Puerto Rico’s debt, and a moratorium on debt payments before and during the auditing process
- Zero tuition hikes and/or elimination of enrollment exemptions
- Zero budget cuts to the University of Puerto Rico
Now therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Teaching Assistants’ Association at UW-Madison, American Federation of Teachers Local 3220, stands in solidarity with the University of Puerto Rico Student Movement and calls upon UPR to meet their demands for shared governance and protection for striking activities, and
RESOLVED, that the TAA stands in solidarity with the UPR Student Movement and calls upon the Fiscal Oversight Board to meet their demands for the restitution of the commission to audit the debt, a moratorium on payments until the audit process is complete, and the elimination of debilitating budget cuts for the university, and
RESOLVED, that the TAA calls upon US Congress to repeal PROMESA and to elaborate a viable solution to address the debt crisis through shared governance, and
RESOLVED, that the TAA will donate $200 to CLASE, an organization of business and social science students collecting materials for the strike, and
RESOLVED, that members of the TAA are encouraged to contact their representatives to demand more information about PROMESA and Puerto Rico’s political status, and
RESOLVED, that we call upon AFT-Wisconsin, AFT-National, and our fellow graduate worker unions nation-wide to pass similar resolutions in solidarity with the UPR Student Movement against PROMESA.
About the TAA
The TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States and advocates for a university that is fair to all—including students, workers, and their families. Graduate student workers perform nearly half of all the instructional labor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, while also taking classes and conducting research. The university works because we do.