OAXACA, Mexico – SNTE teachers union members have voted to go on an indefinite strike starting Monday in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, a move that affects 1.3 million students, union leaders said.
The decision to go on strike was made Saturday after SNTE Local 22 members decided that state officials had not made satisfactory concessions in negotiations, union leader Azael Santiago Chepi said.
The teachers plan to occupy the main plaza in Oaxaca city, the state capital.
The union is not making any pay demands, focusing instead on educational and social issues, Chepi said.
Teachers want better uniform allowances for students, computers in all of the state’s elementary schools and electricity in all schools, the union leader said.
Union members also want officials to find Carlos Rene Roman, a teacher who disappeared on March 14, Chepi said.
The state government, which is led by Gov. Gabino Cue, is offering a reward of 500,000 pesos (some $43,500) for information about the whereabouts of the missing teacher.
About 70,000 teachers walked off the job in Oaxaca in May 2006, setting off a long conflict.
The labor dispute’s transformation into a movement to oust former Gov. Ulises Ruiz occurred on June 14, 2006, when police used force to break up a sit-in by strikers in Oaxaca city’s main square.
The clash lasted nearly four hours and left dozens injured and under arrest.
The incident marked the start of a six-month conflict in Oaxaca that left at least 20 dead, including an independent U.S. journalist, and millions in economic losses.
The protests were joined by the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, or APPO, which was created in June 2006 to support the teachers.
Former Gov. Ruiz, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was a polarizing figure even before the conflict with the teachers, as many accused him of rigging the 2004 election that brought him to power in Oaxaca.
The uprising against the governor was crushed by thousands of federal police and troops in November 2006, but not before at least 20 people – mostly Ruiz opponents – had been killed and the protests had caused millions of dollars in losses in the normally popular tourist destination of Oaxaca city.
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorest states and is also the one with the largest Indian population, in terms both of absolute numbers and as a proportion of the total inhabitants.