Salvadoran teachers strike for wages, 1971

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The timephrame of the campaign is referred to as "during the summer," but the precise dates are unknown
June
1971
to
July
1971
Location and Goals
Country: 
El Salvador
Location City/State/Province: 
Suchitoto & San Salvador
Location Description: 
"inter-city visits" made movement between schools in different cities important
Goals: 
"The teachers were demanding better salaries, social security, [and] better infrastructure for the schools." [6]

They were also,"demanding a modernized salary scale corresponding to rank and seniority" [1].

 

Starting in 1968, Salvadoran President Fidel Sanchez Hernandez began focusing his presidency on accomplishing three major reforms, in education, administration, and agriculture. The education reform he put in place upset Salvadoran teachers for three main reasons. First, teachers were required to pass every student to the next grade, when before they had “held-back” failing students. Second, the new mathematics curriculum taught concepts that Salvadoran teachers had never taught before and considered pointless. Third, the teachers were also unhappy with the standardization of curriculum, enforced by the government with televised lessons that Salvadoran students were required to watch.

These changes accentuated the teachers’ already present discontent with teaching conditions, insufficient pay, and lack of benefits.

As early as December 1970, the National Association of Salvadoran Educators (ANDES) began organizing congresses that specifically addressed the government’s education reform. In 1971, the Salvadoran legislature passed a new teacher salary scale law. In response, ANDES presented an alternative plan that voiced their interests and needs as teachers.

The government refused to consider the ANDES plan. The teachers then announced their decision to call a strike. By Salvadoran Decree 390, the Salvadoran government declared the strike illegal and so began the Salvadoran teacher’s campaign of 1971.

During the summer of 1971, ANDES teachers held the strike, “demanding a modernized salary scale corresponding to rank and seniority," as well as, “social security, [and] better infrastructure for the schools.” Teachers related their campaign to concerns of other Salvadorans. Jose Mario Lopez, the ANDES secretary general at the time, framed the campaign when he stated that teachers were fighting to represent the, “true interests of the working class in which not only is labor valued, but the laborer is valued as a human being”.

The teachers gained the support of Catholic labor unions, opposing political parties, and even the Salvadoran peasant movement. University students organized solidarity strikes, fundraisers, and marches. University community members raised $5,200 to support the teachers during their strike from work and also donated university printing services, so that teachers could publish ANDES newspapers and pamphlets. High school students helped as well. Church members opened their churches as a safe place for ANDES teachers to meet and strategically plan the campaign. Including teachers and supporters, it is estimated that 50,000 people participated in the campaign.

The campaigning teachers organized inter-city visits to make their presence and that of their campaign more visible to as many Salvadorans as possible. The National Guard intercepted some of these traveling campaigners and incarcerated them with the charge of having subversive literature in their possession.

On one such occasion in the town of Suchitoto, the supportive townspeople protested outside the jail where arrested teachers were being held. That same day, an activist priest, Jose Inocencion Alas “Chencho,” organized a region-wide Catholic Mass consisting of around 10,000 celebrants. Immediately after the mass, the worshipers processed out and marched throughout the town, ending in a rally outside the jail. The imprisoned teachers were also rallying inside the jail.

400 protesters held a continual vigil outside the jail. At 5:00 AM the next morning, the town judge entered the scene and demanded that the teachers be released so their cases could be heard. By 11:00 AM, all of the teachers had been set free and the crowd of protesters finally dispersed.

After fifty-three days of campaigning, the teachers called off their strike. None of their demands had been met, but they were satisfied in their “unqualified success in advancing the socio-political struggle.” After the strike ended, the ANDES members began to position themselves more radically in Salvadoran society. They accused the televised lessons of being part of the Yankee imperialist agenda, because they were geared to satisfy Western educational standards. The ANDES teachers also began to frame the government’s education reform as a new method of perpetuating the ideology of El Salvador’s dominant class.

Research Notes
Influences: 

1) The 1968 Salvadoran Teachers Strike

2) Future Salvadoran movements, including student campaigns.

Sources: 
[1] Almeida, Paul D. “Opportunity Organizations and Threat-Induced Contention” Protest Waves in Authoritarian Settings.” Texas A&M University. Web. 31 March 2013. http://faculty1.ucmerced.edu/palmeida/docs/ajs_2003.pdf

[2] Beirne, S.J. Charles J. Jesuit Education and Social Change in El Salvador. Web. 31 March 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=EhvVkXA5uLAC&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=el+salvador+teacher+strike+1971&source=bl&ots=y4EEOHFhSO&sig=qP6SHBcxnApjv1IHLnQDTiqP6jw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xD9XUf_KCIzj4AOtp4GgBA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=el%20salvador%20teacher%20strike%201971&f=false>.

[3] E. L. NITOBURG. Political parties, trade unions, and other social organizations. Web. 31 March 2013. <http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Rep%C3%BAblica+de+El+Salvador>.

[4] “El Salvador Stories of War and Hope” Web 31 March 2013. <http://www.memoriaypaz.net/history.html>.

[5] Lindo-Fuentes, Hector. Modernizing Minds in El Salvador: Education Reform and the Cold War, 1960- 1980.University of New Mexico Press. 2012. Web. 31 March 2013. < http://books.google.com/books?id=BxGep-7j9VUC&pg=PT195&lpg=PT195&dq=1971+teacher+strike+El+Salvador&source=bl&ots=ucbzoSQG4b&sig=Y8jTI8sAGsdo1orQOBUUk4B3bbY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-j9XUZPNF5PG4APu4IGACQ&ved=0CEEQ6AEwAw>.

[6] Little, David. “Peasant Power: Jose Inocencio Alas, El Salvador.” Peacemakers in Action Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 2007. (p. 25-52)

[7] Marin Alvarez, Alberto. From Revolutionary war to Democratic Revolution: The Fabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador. Bergh of Conflict Research 2010. Web. 31 March 2013. <http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/bitstream/88435/dsp011g05fb65n/1/transitions9-revoluationary_war_democratic_revolution.pdf>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Sarah Gonzales, 12/04/2013