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By Tim Goulet
June 19, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Why has the use of the strike in the US become so scarce? While subjective factors are more difficult to quantify, certain basic reasons seem more readily evident. Union membership, particularly in the private sector, is at an all-time low. Most of the unions are heavily bureaucratized, and central labor councils ossified. “Sympathy strikes,” long ago outlawed by Taft-Hartley, militate against the sort of broad-based solidarity so essential to an industrial victory. Moreover, many unions have accepted no-strike clauses for the duration of their contracts, effectively tying one hand behind their backs.
Despite it all, the recent victory of 39,000 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) workers at Verizon furnishes a stark reminder of what kind of power resides in the organized section of the working class when it is in motion.
It also shows the power of the strike weapon, and how it can be an effective tool -- in not only realizing demands and raising working class living standards -- but also rebuilding our unions.
The Tragedies of the Global Commons and the Global Working Class: Reflections on the Papal Encyclical
Michael A. Lebowitz (pictured) will be one of the keynote speakers at Socialism for the 21st century: Moving beyond capitalism, learning from global struggles being held in Sydney on May 13-15.
By Michael A. Lebowitz
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — An earlier version of this paper was presented at ‘The First World Congress on Marxism’ at Peking University, 10 October 2015 in Beijing, China.
‘On Care for Our Common Home’: the premises
Everybody is talking about it — the dangers presented by climate change. Adding significantly, though, to the emphasis upon the need to take dramatic action now has been Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical Laudati Si’, ‘On Care for our Common Home’. Its over-riding theme is that we must ‘protect our common home’. ‘The climate,’ the document stresses, ‘is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all’ and is ‘linked to many of the essential conditions for human life’ (23). Not only, however, are we destroying those conditions but, ‘the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth’ (21). How is it, the Encyclical asks, that we have ‘so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years’ (53)?
The oligarchs have joined forces to railroad a new labour code that strips Ukrainian workers of their already modest rights.
For more on the political situation in Ukraine.
By Vitaly Dudin
June 4, 2015 -- Open Democracy via The New Cold War, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Neoliberal modernisation in Ukraine is nothing new. The processes and forces pushing it forward long predate the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych last February. But since the events of 2014, this process has been expedited and has arrived at a key issue: the laws governing the way people work.
Unite fast-food delegates at a national gathering on February 14 take time out to picket a McDonald's store to launch the campaign publicly.
For more on Aotearoa/New Zealand, click HERE.
By Mike Treen, Unite national director
May 18, 2105 -- Unite Union, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Workers in the fast food industry in Aotearoa/New Zealand scored a spectacular victory over what has been dubbed “zero hour contracts” during a collective agreement bargaining round over the course of March and April this year.
By Vivian Messimeris, Athens
January 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Vivian Messimeris is part of the Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal team covering the January 25 election in Greece. She spoke to Hara Petsiou (pictured), a cleaner sacked from her job at the finance ministry. The sacked cleaners are fighting for their jobs. You can read more of team's eyewitness coverage of Greece HERE and HERE.
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Can you explain what you are protesting about?
We are cleaners from the Finance Ministry who work throughout Greece, we are not only located in Athens, but in all of Greece. We work in a range of different government buildings and offices. On September 17 (2013) we arrived to work and we were told that we would no longer be employed. Because of the Troika, I’m not sure why, but they had to retrench a certain number of public employees.
November 5, 2014 -- Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
By the nine COSATU affiliates
A. Our objectives
After the 11th COSATU Congress in 2012, the Federation was gripped by a paralysing ideological, political, administrative and organisational crisis. We have analysed this crisis, and at our first joint press conference, stated the following, as the basis of our common approach:
1. To explicitly clarify what the progressive forces inside COSATU are campaigning for and what they are seeking to achieve.
2. To provide a clear set of demands to serve as the basis for mobilising a majority of workers in COSATU for a decisive break with class collusion and for trade union independence.
3. To regenerate a vibrant worker controlled organisational culture in COSATU with a leadership that is committed to the highest democratic and accountable processes.
Statement by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)
October 27, 2014 -- NUMSA, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was born in 1985, the federation brought together many different trade unions with different organisational, political and administrative cultures and traditions.
From 1981, it took four long hard years to emerge from the unity talks with the establishment of the largest federation in South Africa in December 1985.
The COSATU we formed, over its 29 years of existence, has grown and been united, by the following values:
1. COSATU is an independent, fearless and democratic trade union federation: it confronted the Apartheid regime and survived! COSATU is shaped and had existed premised on the following key and core values;
a. COSATU is a revolutionary socialist federation.
b. COSATU is an anti-imperialist federation: it fights against foreign capitalist domination.
Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China
By Eli Friedman
Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 2014.
By Jane Slaughter
October 15, 2014 -- Labor Notes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- China is the world centre of wildcat strikes—given that no strike in China is officially allowed under the law. The government doesn’t issue statistics, but one source found 1171 strikes and worker protests from June 2011 through 2013.
By Terry Bell, Cape Town
September 14, 2014 -- Terry Bell Writes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The labour movement is coming under increasing pressure as the global economic crisis continues to bite. On the South African front the pressure is growing as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) labour federation fails to deal with the internal divisions that threaten to tear the federation apart. Or at least further fragment the country’s largest union organisation.
This much has been admitted by COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. He noted in August that “unions are in a state of paralysis”. Addressing the Food and Allied Workers’ Union congress in Johannesburg he said that “workers’ issues are being sidelined even by COSATU itself”. And it is the unions themselves that should sort these matters out.
By Mike Treen, Unite national director
[All four parts of this series can be downloaded as a single PDF file here.]
June 27, 2014 -- Unite News, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- The following history was prepared as part of the contribution by Unite Union to the international fast food workers' meeting in New York in early May. Union officials and workers were fascinated by the story we were able to tell which in many ways was a prequel to the international campaign today.
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June 25, 2014 -- Real News Network -- Patrick Bond provides an update on platinum miners' strike in South Africa is Patrick Bond. Patrick Bond is the director of the Centre for Civil Society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Bond is also the author of the book, South Africa: The Present as History and Elite Transition.
By Gillian Schutte and Sipho Singiswa
June 25, 2014 -- SACIS -- The stadium in Phokeng outside Rustenberg exploded in jubilation when the end of the longest strike in South African history was announced on June 23. Men and women waved their arms victoriously in the air and resounding ululations and cheering reverberated as a great burden of domestic hardship lifted. Workers had changed history.
They had valiantly resisted the dogged state and corporate attempt to smash their strike despite the personal hardships that they had to endure to reach this point. It was they who dealt a blow to capital because it was they who held out determinedly and who accumulated five months of unpaid accounts, became black listed, kept their kids out of schools through necessity and went without food. They are indeed, the central heroes in this story.
The most recent strike, one of the largest in China in many years, is taking place at a Taiwanese-owned factory complex, Yue Yuen, in the city of Dongguan.
May 3, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- Peter Boyle spoke to Kevin Lin, who is doing research for his PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on the labour movement in China, about the background to a new wave of strikes in the country.
Lin will be speaking at the “People's Power in the 'Asian Century'” conference, a one-day public event organised by the Socialist Alliance in conjunction with its 10th national conference in Sydney, June 7-9. Find out more about the conference and register (“early bird” discounts if you register before May 18) HERE .
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There seems to be a new labour upsurge in China. What can you tell us about the recent strikes and their causes?
Tracking strikes in China is difficult because of censorship, but there does appear to be an upsurge in strikes in recent months based on reports collected by labour groups.
Protesters outside Tony Abbott's $396/head dinner with the Sydney Institute on April 28.
Abbott's 'stronger', 'happier' Australia equals more pain for workers, pensioners and the poor
By Susan Price and Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance co-convenors
May 1, 2014 -- Socialist Alliance -- A casino was a fitting venue to host Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th birthday dinner of conservative think tank, the Sydney Institute, on April 28. Abbott's speech, coming two weeks ahead of the annual budget, was full of promises of "happiness", "security" and "a better life", but in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they're left with much more than the shirt on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.
By Liam Mac Uaid
March 11, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance -- We are deeply shocked at the news that Bob Crow has died suddenly early this morning of a heart attack at the age of 52.
We send our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to his family and friends and to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and its members. His death is a huge blow to the RMT and to the wider trade union movement and to the cause of militant class-struggle trade unionism. During his 12 years as general secretary, the RMT has grown in both size and stature. He has been prepared to support strike action to defend the wages jobs and conditions of his members, and has done so very successfully.
As a result of this he has been vilified by the employers, government ministers and the likes of London mayor Boris Johnson, but has enjoyed strong support among the rank and file of the union. To say that he will be sorely missed is a gross understatement.
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Exclusive excerpt from John Tully's 'Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that ... Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement'
February 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following is an excerpt from John Tully's new book, Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that Shook London and Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement, published by Monthly Review Press. It is posted with the kind permission of Monthly Review Press. Readers of Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen below.
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“This is a revolt against oppression: a protest against the brute force which keeps a huge population down in the depths of the most dire degradation, for the benefit of a knot of profit-hunters … this is a strike of the poor against the rich.”—William Morris, 1889
Striking garment workers marching to the Ministry for of Labor Vocational Training with placard demanding US$160 a month minimum wage, December 30. Photo by Workers Information Centre, Cambodia.
By Chrek Sophea, Phnom Penh
January 20, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- I was deeply saddened to read the article by Anne Elizabeth Moore titled “What’s the Price of Workers’ Lives in Cambodia?”, published on January 17 in the US-based Truth-out.org website.
This story contained an outrageous attack on the Cambodian garment workers' demonstration over the minimum wage by a well-known Cambodian blogger, academic and human rights activist Sopheap Chak.
I am used to hearing such arguments from employers as a way to escape from their responsibility to pay workers a decent wage, but I did not expect this from an experienced human rights activist.
Chak, program director for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), claimed she has been watching the recent events closely, but disparaged the garment workers' campaign for a US$160 a month minimum wage.
By Hao Qi
January 2014 -- Monthly Review -- In the past two decades, China’s economic growth has been increasingly dependent on investment.1 To maintain the growth of investment, China must sustain a fairly high rate of profit, and the fall in labour’s share has been seen as a crucial factor to sustain profitability.2 Using a raw measure of labour’s share—the compensation of employees as a percent of GDP—as shown by the bottom solid line in Chart 1, labour’s share has experienced a major decline from 51.4 percent in 1995 to 42.4 percent in 2007.
Striking garment worker shows spent cartridges from police and military shootings the Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh on January 3. Photo by Malay Tim, President Cambodian Youth Network.
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Chrek Sophea, former garment worker and interim coordinator of the Worker’s Information Centre (WIC), a women garment workers' base association in Phnom Penh, interviewed by Peter Boyle
Railway workers' three-week strike against privatisation garnered wide support—and government repression. Photo by DDanzi Ilbo.
By Li San
January 8, 2014 -- Labor Notes -- South Korea’s railway workers have ended a 22-day strike, the longest such stoppage in the country’s history. Though they didn’t win a clear victory, they succeeded in placing the issue of privatisation in public focus.
The government’s and management’s attack on the strike was ruthless to the point of recklessness, while the public’s solidarity and sympathy with the striking workers continued to rise.
And the full impact of the action has yet to ripple out. Amid rising political tensions, the country’s biggest union umbrella, the 700,000-strong Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), has called for a one-day general strike February 25.
Privatisation Plans Sparked Strike
About 15,000 unionists, or about 45 per cent of the workforce, of Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) walked off the job December 9 to protest what they saw as a preliminary step to privatising rail service—a plan by management to spin off the most lucrative slice of its business.
January 5, 2014 -- Anticapitalist Initiative -- With new papers released by the National Archives about the British miners’ strike the Anticapitalist Initiative’s Chris Strafford caught up with Harry Paterson, author of the upcoming book Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 years on, to discuss what we have learnt.
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Chris Strafford: With the release of documents from the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office from 1984 detailing discussions and actions of the Thatcher government in the 1984-85 miners’ strike we have got some insight into how the attack on the miners was carried out. What were your initial thoughts once you had finished reading the documents?