Puerto Rico’s teacher, police, and firefighter salary and retirement controversy, in context
In recent weeks in Puerto Rico, public employees in the territory have been protesting because of their disappointment with salaries, retirement plans, pensions, and work environments. This has produced one of the largest uprisings the US territory has seen, with several protests over the last two weeks. Protestors are insisting on higher salaries for teachers and educators, police officers, firefighters, and other public employers.
Residents of Puerto Rico have taken to protesting outside La Fortaleza, Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s (NPP, D) mansion. Marching through the streets of old San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, protestors bang on pots and pans while rallying towards the governor’s home. Over 70% of Puerto Rican teachers left their school for the day to attend the protests, while firefighters have protested by shutting their fire stations in objection to their low salaries and the desiring of a better pension plan.
In response to the protests, Pierluisi has issued several controversial statements and comments since the protests. Many protesters were outraged by the governor’s comment that no one is forced to be a firefighter, police officer, or educator. Additionally, a comment from the governor about public employees finding new jobs if unsatisfied with their current ones created a massive uproar.
On February 7 the governor announced a $1,000 increase in public school teachers’ salaries. Later, it was explained that he would also add school principles, regional superintendents, and all other public educators to the salary increase. The government will be using federal funds to successfully fund the salary increase for the first 2 years. However, public employers in the US territory are concerned Pierluisi won’t keep his promise of a permanent salary increase. Now, other public sector employees also want a salary increase.
Amid Puerto Rico’s substantial bankruptcy and an unstable economy, the territory struggles to adequately fund public employees’ salaries and the considerable retirement systems. However, with high local living costs, teachers and educators, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees have made it clear they are done waiting for long-promised increases in salary and retirement benefits.