In a whole day activity dubbed as Filipino Migrant Teachers Assembly held last February 6, 2010 at the Labor Hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, more than 50 teachers from the different school districts in Louisiana discussed the concept, objectives and organizational structure of the group. By the end of the day the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana was formed and a set of officers was elected.
Ingrid Cruz, one of the organizers of the activity and the elected founding President of the federation underscored the importance of the gathering. “This formation is not only to obtain justice for ourselves and our families but to increase awareness on the issue and prevent more Filipinos from being victimized by these unscrupulous and abusive placement agencies.”
Among the objectives of group are the following: 1. To help Filipino teachers and workers who are victims of trafficking, oppressive forms of recruitment and unfair labor practices; 2. To implement campaigns to pursue justice and enforce the rights of migrant teachers and workers; and 3. To advocate for the promotion of the welfare of migrant workers both in the US and in the Philippines.
It can be recalled that several Filipino teachers started to expose the oppressive policies of their placement agency and their horrible experiences through a blog, http://www.pinoyteachershub.blogspot.com
, which until now continues to rally the teachers to move collectively to obtain justice. People behind the blog are believed to be part of this teachers’ formation.
In the latter part of last year, the teachers with the help of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have filed complaints against the California-based Universal Placement International (UPI) with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In the Philippines, these teachers in coordination with the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) are filing complaints with the POEA against UPI’s Philippine-based counterpart PARS International.
Mairi Nunag, also an organizer of the formation and the elected Executive Vice-President said that they are expecting that more Filipino teachers will join the organization. “We have many more colleagues who are one with our goals and aspirations. Before, they are afraid to come out in the open to fight these agencies but now many realized that there is no more option left but to stand up and fight.”
The activity was keynoted by Atty. Jesse Marchan, a Filipino-American immigration lawyer who has also volunteered to help the teachers in their situation. Solidarity messages from the Filipino community in Baton Rouge, from PM labor party-list, from the teachers’ blog and other groups were read during the activity.
Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, in a message of solidarity challenged the newly formed organization for the “bigger battle of gaining a voice and winning reforms for Filipino migrant workers in the US.” Ian Seruelo, the PM-Liaison Officer in the U.S. who is also one of the organizers of the event expressed confidence that the formation will solidify the gains of the different efforts and campaigns against the “oppressive tandem of UPI-PARS.” “We will not stop until those responsible for these exploitative practices are punished,” Seruelo added.
Filipino teachers who are holding H1B working visas were deployed in different school districts in Louisiana starting 2007 to fill in the shortage of teachers especially in the fields of math, science and special education. http://www.partidongmanggagawa2001.blogspot.com/
Message of Solidarity to the Filipino Migrant Teachers Assembly
The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM - Workers Party) extends the long arm of workers solidarity to the Filipino Migrant Teachers Assembly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As the independent working class party in the Philippines, we congratulate the valiant Filipino teachers who have waged the good fight to right what is wrong and defend the welfare of migrant workers in the US.
Now you stand on the threshold of taking the next big step in the fight for migrant rights and welfare. Forming a migrant teachers and workers organization is the necessary and logical level up in the continuing struggle. We wish you success in this initiative and endeavor.
Establishing an organization of Filipino migrant teachers and workers in the US consolidates the hard-fought and well-deserved gains and victories in the course of more than a year of struggle. It also prepares the courageous Filipino migrant teachers for the decisive battle to win the case against an oppressive illegal recruiter. And moreover it paves the road and points for way for the far bigger battle of gaining a voice and winning reforms for Filipino migrant workers in the US.
Forming an organization of Filipino migrant teachers and workers in the US comes at an opportune time. In the US, the Obama administration that came to power on a platform of hope and change is just a year old. In the Philippines, it is the eve of the national elections that will end the unpopular regime of Gloria Arroyo. A vibrant migrant organization in partnership with strong labor movements should challenge the promises of the present administration in the US and the coming regime in the Philippines.
As any migrant worker who has left the country in search not so much of greener pastures but simply of a better job, elections in the Philippines are more in the nature of an entertaining circus and noisy fiesta rather than springboards for real reform or even discussion of issues. Yet the crisis of the ruling system in the Philippines has opened up windows of opportunities however small, such as the party-list system, for determined labor advocates to gain voice and representation.
Also in the US, the economic recession is casting away illusions and opening up the eyes of the working people about the nature of capitalism, the excesses of globalization, the need for an alternative America and the possibility of a new world. Amidst the struggle for health care, immigration reform and pro-labor change, a revitalized American workers movement may be forged with the voice of migrant labor firmly embedded.
The prospects for expanding and consolidating a Filipino migrant teachers and workers organization are good. Under the new context, it will hopefully be immunized against the virus of disunity and fragmentation that has historically debilitated Filipino-American organizations. As long the principles of democratic processes and unity in action are practiced not just preached, as long as a long-term political vision for social change imbues the immediate fight for labor rights and welfare, then we believe the road less traveled by that you have taken as migrant workers will make all the difference. http://www.partidongmanggagawa2001.blogspot.com/