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A Letter to LA Teachers From Greece

From California to Greece, teachers are fighting attacks on education. Striking Greek teachers write that they stand with Los Angeles's teachers strike.

Teachers strike in Athens, Greece, January 14, 2019. Association of Teachers, "The Parthenon"

A key tool of austerity politics, globally, has been the dismantling of social services. All over the world ruling classes have been attacking health care, public education, pension plans — services that not only make life and life-making possible for working-class communities but that also contain within them an important anti-market logic. This is why, in recent years, we have witnessed struggles in the sphere of social reproduction carry a particularly militant charge. What we are witnessing is the working class rising to defend the infrastructures of their lives. Working-class women have played a key role in these struggles as they both account for the majority of jobs in the care sector, as well as bear an unequal burden from their dismantling.

Socialists must see the teachers’ strike wave, globally led by women, as a defense of working-class lives and futures. This explains why the wave is global.

Here we reproduce a solidarity statement from striking Greek teachers to their comrades in Los Angeles. To repeat the slogan of the International Woman’s Strike: solidarity is our weapon.

—Tithi Bhattacharya, national organizer, International Women’s Strike

A Letter to LA teachers From Greece

Dear sisters and brothers in UTLA,

We send you solidarity greetings from Greece.

Since December, thousands of teachers in Greece have been striking and demonstrating against a proposed government bill that will regulate the way that teachers — both permanent and substitute ones — will be appointed.

2010 was the last time permanent teachers were hired in Greece. Since then all vacancies in our schools have covered by substitute teachers, hired with the maximum of a nine-month contract. Currently, we have 30,000 substitute teachers working in our schools, mostly women, with the vast majority of them constantly moving from school to school with no sense of stability or continuity.

For the last three years the Syriza–Anel government has been promising to create permanent teaching appointments. Nothing has been done yet. Instead, now, they are passing a bill, which in the name of defining the way that teachers will be appointed, means that thousands of our substitute teachers will be fired, since the bill has raised the bar for teaching qualifications. Those not fired will be forced to work hundreds of miles away from their homes and families, because they won’t have the required “points” needed in order to work where they have been teaching for many years. The bill requires teachers to have postgraduate diplomas and other comparable qualifications — it costs thousands of euros to acquire these. In effect, the government is calling on teachers to fiercely compete with each other in order to find a teaching position.

This bill has caused the real anger among teachers. This anger has been aggravated by years of austerity policies which have all but dismantled public education in Greece. On December 11 and December 14, a strike was called by the teachers unions, demanding the withdrawal of the bill and the permanent appointment of all substitute teachers. The government believed that because the bill was actually announced during the Christmas holidays, the educational movement would not have the time to prepare the strike. They were wrong. Thousands of teachers all around Greece closed their schools and demonstrated against the bill. The demonstrations in Athens were some of the largest and most militant in years. The Syriza government ordered a massive police force to break up the demonstrations resulting in serious injuries for teachers, most of them women.

It is necessary to point out that the leaderships of the national teachers’ unions were obliged to call a strike under the pressure of the grassroots movement. Many local unions and substitute teachers’ collectives occupied the Deanery of the University in the Centre of Athens in order to use it as the “headquarters” for our movement. We have been organizing various activities and we are calling the students and all the working people to support and join the teachers’ movement.

We have been watching since last year the impressive mass movement of educators in the US and see that Los Angeles teachers are currently on strike. We express our solidarity to your movement and we are certain of your victory! We know that the attack on public education and teachers is common to both our countries! We also know that only a militant, persistent movement will finally win!

In solidarity,

Substitute teachers, local teachers unions, and students from the occupied Deanery of the University in the Centre of Athens.