For Immediate Release

August 6, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA,

Filipino Women Stand in Solidarity with PGCPS Teachers in Their Struggle Against Joblessness, Labor Law Violations, and The Broken U.S. Immigration System

The women of GABRIELA-USA send warm militant greetings of solidarity to the teachers of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland who are currently waging a struggle against joblessness, labor law violations, and a system designed to divide workers and exploit migrants of the United States. There are an estimated 19,000 migrant teachers currently employed in the U.S. public school system, most of whom are women recruited from the Philippines. Since 2005, the PGCPS district recruited 1000 out of its 9000 schoolteachers from other countries, the majority from the Philippines. As a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations, we understand how unfair U.S. labor laws and Philippine economic policies influenced by U.S. interests collude to create exploitative conditions for thousands of Filipino migrant worker women from all sectors.

In the case of the PGCPS teachers, over 800 teachers are in danger of losing their H-1B working visas and facing deportation due to a recent decision made by the Department of Labor. In 2007, the DOL began investigating a claim that the PGCPS district was forcing its migrant teachers to pay exorbitant placement and processing fees that should have been handled by the district itself. It is common for U.S. employers to bypass local and international labor laws by hiring foreign workers through third-party employment agencies. The DOL found the PGCPS district guilty of financially exploiting migrant teachers and ordered the district to pay the workers back wages that amounted to $4 million. However, the DOL also barred the district from renewing these migrant teachers’ visas, leaving hundreds of them facing lay-offs and deportation. The Filipino migrant teachers of PGCPS are in a crisis, because their prospects are slim. With mass budget cuts in education, not enough teaching jobs are available for the growing reserve labor force of teachers in the U.S. In addition, the reason many of these migrant teachers chose to leave their families and work in the U.S. public school system is that no jobs are available to them in their home countries as well.

In the Philippines, the people face rampant poverty, landlessness, and joblessness caused by corrupt governance and relentless intervention of U.S. imperialism in the country. The Philippine state has been subservient to the economic and political interests of the U.S., often upholding policies that violate the basic rights and freedom of the Filipino people. One such policy is the Labor Export Policy, launched during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. This policy has been in effect even today, under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III. It maintains a systematic exodus of Filipino workers abroad into countries who promise better opportunities in economic niches unfulfilled by the receiving countries’ labor force. Despite the positive rhetoric attached to this process, the Philippine state requires these migrant workers—who often face employer abuse, wage theft, unfair working conditions, and human trafficking—to send mass remittances back home, not only to support their families, but also to keep the dwindling Philippine economy afloat. Over 4000 workers, more than half of who are women, leave the Philippines everyday in search for work abroad. This is good news only for the Philippine state that benefits from the backs of these workers, and for the U.S. that has historically desired a cheap, exploited labor force to drive its capitalist expansion.

In the current global economic crisis, we can see that the United States government has only been interested in preserving the livelihood of its rich elite and the private sector. Nationally and locally, it has slashed the budgets of the public sector—including that of public education and health care—at the expense of the masses of U.S. workers, native and foreign. This DOL decision, if not overturned, could negatively affect the PGCPS migrant teachers’ means of surviving and supporting their families in the U.S. and in their homeland. Not only do they lose their jobs, but they lose their homes, access to health care, and opportunities to care for their families. GABRIELA-USA is inspired by the migrant teachers who, despite facing such injustice, are steadfast in their fight for their basic rights and livelihood. We unite and stand in solidarity with the PGCPS migrant teachers and all exploited migrant workers until justice has been served!

Join GABRIELA USA and other organizations in support and solidarity with the PGCPS teachers at a White House Rally. Tell the Dept. of Labor NOT to deport migrant teachers who have excelled in servicing our youth and communities!

Picket Rally @ The White House
When: Tuesday, August 9th @ 2p.m.
Where: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20500 (btw East & West Executive Streets in front of Lafayette Park facing the White House)

Metro: Closest stop is Farragut North or Metro Center on the Red line & McPherson Square on the Blue line

There’s Still TIME to Sign Petition! Tell DOL Don’t Deport Filipino Teachers After School System Failed Them!