Government workers throughout Puerto Rico are coming out in protest to demand an increase in wages and pensions. Thousands are protesting for higher incomes, sparked by last Friday’s protest by teachers that led to the Governor agreeing to their demands.
The teachers that organized in Puerto Rico on Friday demanded a $1,000 increase in their salaries temporarily amid critical time for education and schools. Governor of the US territory, Pedro Pierluisi released a statement at the start of this week confirming that the demands of the public educators will be met. He mentioned that the budget allotted via the U.S. Department of Education will be used to meet the raise in salaries.
At the same time, Pierluisi also came under fire and is currently being asked to take back his words when at the press conference he said being a public worker is not an obligation for anyone, hinting that those protesting chose their fields on their own.
“No one here is forced to be a police officer or a firefighter, but those who decide towards that calling will have to assume that huge responsibility and if for any reason they question if they should continue to do so amid the salary or work conditions, they are not obligated to remain in their role,” said Gov. Pierluisi, facing backlash from the public employees.
Leny Colón, who is a Spanish teacher said in support of all public employees, told ABC News, “It’s disrespectful. We are here because we have a calling but this calling shouldn’t be punished… this is a community fight.” She traveled 60 miles from Coamo to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, to join the public employees in their protest and amplify their demands.
The press release by Pierluisi on February 7 stated, “Our team has made the necessary calculations and has consulted the federal government, and we’ve been able to identify ESSER funds to provide incentives for teachers.” Another teacher from San Juan, Carlos Torres called Pierluisi’s words “insensible” and highlighted how the public protests helped raise wages, coming in effect from July of this year, and not the governor. “If we wouldn’t have pressured him and we wouldn’t have marched Friday he wouldn’t have done anything,” said Torres.