An email from Jill Friedberg…filmmaker and frequent visitor to Oaxaca…on some of the inner workings of the 2006 teacher strike until now:
When there are plantons (encampments), marches, etc. each delegation and sector within the Seccion 22 of the teacher’s union does something that looks a lot like role call (all teachers within that delegation or sector are on a list…those present get their names checked off the list, those not present do not). Over time, the amount of time that individual teachers spend at marches, plantons, etc. adds up in what the teachers refer to as “puntos,” (points) and the more puntos you have accumulated, the better your chances of getting the teaching job in the city that you want, or of getting promoted. A lot of teachers within the Seccion 22 are very critical of this puntos system, for multiple reasons:
1) it’s not fair, because a lot of teachers (especially single mothers) have legitimate reasons for not being able to attend marches and plantons
2) it’s a “lefty” version of the corruption that existed before the seccion 22 “democratized” the union
3) if people are down with the struggle, they shouldn’t have to be coerced into participating.
On the other hand, some teachers argue that it’s not a lot different than the kind of mechanisms that some US unions use, when they go out on strike, to make sure that members aren’t scabbing. If you are assigned to a picket line, you need to be there with the rest of the union members. Going out on strike isn’t about getting the day (or week, or month) off, it’s about participating in the strike / struggle. In other words, if the Seccion 22 goes out on strike and holds a planton, it’s not fair that some teachers are sleeping in the streets, while others are relaxing at home, when the gains of that strike go to everyone. That’s the argument in favor of the puntos (point) system.
Now, during the uprising in 2006, a lot of that system broke down. Roll call wasn’t often being taken in barricades. Teachers didn’t participate in the walk from Oaxaca to Mexico City to earn puntos. The teachers on the hunger strike weren’t accumulating points for starving themselves, in the rain, in Mexico City. On lots of occasions, the teachers who were in the streets were there cause they wanted to be, and the ones who didn’t care went home.
Also, during the earlier months of the 2006 conflict, some sectors (school districts) decided that teachers who weren’t participating in the plantons, occupations, etc. should have to pay a certain amount of money. It wasn’t a fine or a fee intended to coerce teachers into participating, rather it was a way of raising money to cover the costs of the planton. In other words, the teachers sleeping in the streets of Oaxaca city were spending their money on things like: getting access to bathrooms and showers, food, transportation, etc. And they knew that sooner or later URO was going to have their salaries suspended. So the argument was this: If you want to stay home and not participate in the plantons and blockades, you have to fork out a certain amount of money to cover the expenses of those teachers who ARE willing to participate.
Anyway. It’s complicated. It’s flawed. As with everything, it depends on who you talk to.