Members of the UAW Puerto Rico public sector Locals 2396 and 2373, Puerto Rico’s Servidores Públicos Unidos (SPU)/AFSCME Council 95 and other public employees celebrated May 17 when Gov. Luis Fortuño signed into law a bill (Law 73) reinstating collective bargaining for public employees.
Unlike legislatures in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, which are trying to take away workers’ rights, Puerto Rico’s House and the Senate passed this bill unanimously.
Says SPU President Annette González:
This law is very important for workers since in essence it includes two clauses that allow us to attain two fundamental goals: Restore the acquired rights through the restitution of collective bargaining contracts [and] negotiate the economic aspects that will do justice to workers and their families.
The law ends a policy imposed in March 2009 when the administration enacted a fiscal emergency law Law 7) that mandated a two-year freeze on the economic clauses of all collective bargaining agreements. The new law extends the non-economic clauses of the contracts until 2013 and allows workers to negotiate for salaries, benefits, bonuses and other economic aspects.
Carmen Daisy Rodrigues, president of Local 2396, says:
Our members in Puerto Rico suffered greatly in 2009 as a result of Law 7, forcing the termination of tens of thousands of public workers and stripping away the economic gains our members had achieved through collective bargaining. Our rights have been restored under the new Law 73. We believe the governor’s willingness to bargain now is a direct result of the mobilizations, actions, debate and discussion of the last several years. We will be back at the bargaining table in a matter of weeks and can address the economic hardship our members have faced.