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workers' rights

China: 'A decade of change: The workers’ movement in China 2000-2010'

China Labour Bulletin’s interactive strike map.

May 18, 2012 -- China Labour Bulletin -- On 8 May, around 1000 shoe factory workers in Dongguan walked out in protest at management plans to cut their monthly bonus from the usual 500 yuan to just 100 yuan. Management refused to talk so one worker posted their grievances on his micro-blog.

China Labour Bulletin contacted the worker and posted an account of the strike on our microblog. This story was then retweeted more than 50 times within the hour and soon five reporters had gathered outside the factory gate demanding to know what was going on. They were refused entry but the very next day the management, under pressure from local government officials to make the story go away, agreed to increase the workers’ bonus to 300 yuan and the strikers returned to work.

While the international media in the last few months has been understandably focused on Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai and Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese media continues to cover the burgeoning workers’ movement in China. And this media attention itself is helping to drive the movement.

Bahrain: Democracy activists call for trade union solidarity

May 15, 2012 -- GreenLeftTV -- Bahrain democracy activist Zainab Abdulnabi, representing the Australia Bahraini Youth Movement, delivered an impassioned speech at the end of Sydney's May Day march on May 6, 2012. She reported that the heads of the nurses' and teachers' trade unions in Bahrain have been jailed for 15 years simply for supporting democracy protests. Three thousand workers have been dismissed from their jobs for participating in protests. She urged trade unions, especially education and health unions, to extend solidarity to the movement for democracy in Bahrain, and called on the Australian government to apply political pressure on the US and UK to stop arming the repressive Bahrain regime.

May Day greetings from the Socialist Alliance: Time for a wide discussion about socialism in the 21st century

May 1, 2012 -- The Socialist Alliance in Australia sends warm comradely greetings for May Day 2012.

May Day this year takes place in tumultuous conditions: the multiple crises confronting global capitalism are deepening, while mass resistance to its brutal rule grows. Taken all together, the people’s uprisings across the Arab world, the mass demonstrations and strikes occurring in Europe, the Occupy actions in the United States and the ongoing efforts of Latin American revolutionaries to construct socialism of the 21st century pose a huge challenge to the capitalist system.

The capitalist class is desperately striving to force working people and the entire Third World to pay for the worldwide economic, social and ecological crises it has created, but the momentum towards change and the creation of a system that puts the needs of people and the environment before private profit cannot be easily stopped.

COSATU general strike shakes South Africa

By Ashley Fataar, Cape Town

March 12, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- March 7 saw South Africa’s largest protest in several years when more than 200,000 workers took to the streets in 32 towns and cities across the country. More than 1.5 million workers stopped work.

The strike – called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to protest against the growing role of labour brokers and the introduction of road tolls -- was prompted by worsening poverty and working conditions in South Africa. There has been a steady decline in the wage share of national income, down from 56% in 1996 to less than 47% today.

International Women’s Day: the struggle for equality continues

By Socialist Alliance (Australia)

March 8, 2012 -- This International Women’s Day falls at a time when the environmental and economic crises of global capitalism are making life even harder for most women and the communities they live and work in. Capitalism’s crisis is hitting hard in the US and across Europe. It is particularly dire in Greece where school teachers and other essential service workers are being thrown out of work or being forced to take pay cuts of between 40-50%. Working-class women are being hit especially hard. The European-wide austerity drive of the 1% is designed to get the 99% to pay for their greed. However, as the huge protests by workers, students and the unemployed in Greece and across Europe reveal, the 99% is not giving in without a fight.

These mobilisations represent the continuity between the struggles of today and those of the early 20th century – struggles that gave rise to International Women’s Day 101 years ago.

China: Elite rule faces rising social and working-class struggles

Strikes by workers are growing across China. Photo from KasamaProject.org.

[For more discussion on China's economic and political development, click HERE.]

By Kevin Lin

February 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- China’s transition to state-led capitalism over the past three decades has generated numerous social struggles against the state and capital. With China’s ascent in the capitalist world economy, the social struggles inside China not only have a significant domestic impact, but increasingly international ramifications.

As China celebrates the Year of the Dragon, it is an opportune time to critically review the situation for social struggles and their prospects for the future.

State and elite politics

Thailand: Free Somyot Pruksakasemsuk!

[More background information is available here.]

By Choo Chon Kai

February 13, 2012 --The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) expresses its solidarity with labour activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who has been imprisoned without bail since April 30, 2011, and who faces charges under lèse-majesté law.  We are deeply concerned over his continuous imprisonment, transferring of prisons and numerous denial of bail requests.

Somyot is known for his tireless work in the workers' movement and the establishment of democratic trade unionism in Thailand. In 2007 he became editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine (now called Red Power), a political publication opposed to the 2006 military coup. Somyot is the chair of Union of Democratic Labour Alliance and the leader of 24th of June for Democracy Group which was formed in the aftermath of the September 2006 military coup.

Martin Hart-Landsberg: Globalisation, capitalism and China

Workers at the Foxconn (the Taiwanese multinational corporation owned) factory located in China in which many Apple products are assembled.

[For more discussion on China's economic and political development, click HERE.]

By Martin Hart-Landsberg

January 24, 2012 -- Reports from the Economic Front, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- A January 22, 2012 New York Times story, "The iEconomy: How US Lost Out on iPhone Work", has been getting a lot of coverage. The article makes clear that Apple and other major multinational corporations have moved production to China not only to take advantage of low wages but also to exploit a labour environment that gives maximum flexibility.

The following quote gives a flavour for what attracts Apple to China:

Nigeria: The state versus the people -- 10 million join general strike, protests; Unions condemn state killings

By Baba Aye

January 13, 2012 -- Socialist Workers Bulletin -- Nigeria's federal government declared war on Nigerians on new year's day, with its 120% hike in the petrol price. With heads held high, the people gallantly rose across the country in stiff resistance, immediately. The resistance snowballed into a general strike and series of escalating mass protests of historic proportions, with more than 10 million Nigerians demonstrating in more than 50 cities and towns within the country and no less than a dozen cities across Africa, Europe and the Americas.

United States: Labor Notes Conference, Chicago, May 4-6, 2012

Labor Notes Conference 2012

Labor Notes conferences are the biggest gatherings of grassroots union activists, worker center leaders,

Anniversary of the 1937 US sit-down strike wave: Remembering another Occupy movement

Sit-in strikers at General Motors' Fisher No. 1 plant.

By Don Fitz

[See also With Babies & Banners, the classic 1977 documentary about the 1936-37 Flint sit-down strike, and the role of women in it.]

January 3, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The year 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the great sit-down strike wave of 1937. It also begins the second year of the Occupy movement, which has more than a few similarities to the time when hundreds of thousands of Americans occupied their workplaces.

The first recorded sit-down strike in the US was actually in 1906 among General Electric workers of Schenectady, New York. When three organisers for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) were fired, 3000 of their fellow workers sat down and stopped production.

By the 1930s, the IWW was on the wane, but many of its organisers were active and workers across the US had seen its tactics first hand.

United States: 'With Babies & Banners' -- 75 years since the 44-day Flint sit-down strike

To view With Babies & Banners go to http://links.org.au/node/2681.

December 30, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Flint-based filmmaker Michael Moore has described the 1936 Flint sit-down strike as the "first Occupy" movement. Whether this is strictly accurate or not, the 1936-37 occupation/strike was a ground-breaking development in the US labour movement. To mark this anniversary, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal  is making available the classic 1977 documentary on the strike and the role of women in it, With Babies & Banners (via the link at the top of this article, or click here).

As Moore recounts, "On this day, December 30th, in 1936 -- 75 years ago today -- hundreds of workers at the General Motors (GM) factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them. The workers couldn't take the abuse from the corporation any longer. Their working conditions, the slave wages, no vacation, no health care, no overtime -- it was do as you're told or get tossed onto the curb.

United States: Occupy wake-up call caps remarkable year

Trade unionists join Occupy Wall Street.

[For more on the #Occupy movement, click here.]

By Jane Slaughter

December 30, 2011 -- Labor Notes -- It’s been an exhilarating year. Crowds of people finally moved into resistance after decades of misrule.

The year began with Egypt, moved quickly to the snowy streets of Wisconsin, and re-erupted in August with Verizon workers out on strike and longshore unionists in Washington state dumping scab grain onto railroad tracks.

What no one could have predicted was that a relatively small number of young people at Occupy Wall Street would touch off a wave of imitators across the country, from Detroit to Abilene.

November’s electoral victory in Ohio, where Governor John Kasich’s anti-union bill went down to sound defeat, capped off a remarkable year for US workers.

South Africa: One million climate jobs: A just transition to a low carbon economy to combat unemployment and climate change

December 28, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- South Africa's Million Climate Jobs Campaign has released a new booklet describing how the transformation of the economy to one that protects people and the environment, can confront two of South Africa’s biggest threats: climate change and unemployment. The Million Climate Jobs Campaign presents tangible solutions to the ecological and economic crises, and calls on the South African government to create jobs in combating climate change. Authentic, meaningful solutions to climate change offer vast opportunities for decent work in a new
low-carbon economy.

China: Workers' action and collective awakening -- the 2010 auto workers' strike wave

[For more discussion on China's economic and political development, click HERE.]

By Wang Kan*, translated by Ralf Ruckus

Sozial Geschichte Online #6 (2011), posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- On May 17, 2010, a strike erupted at the Honda parts plant in Nanhai, a city located in the Chinese centre of the manufacturing industry in Guangdong province. More than 1800 workers participated, and the strike disrupted all of Honda’s spare parts production facilities in China and led to the paralysing of Honda’s car production in China. On May 28, the strike wave spread to a Hyundai carfactory and on May 29 to US-American Chrysler’s joint venture Jeep factory, both in Beijing. On June 18, Toyota’s second car plant in Tianjin had to close, due to a strike.

In July, the Chinese media were universally asked to restrict their coverage of the strikes, but the strikes in the auto industry still did not stop. Prior to July 22, at least two of Honda’s joint venture factories saw strikes. The organisers and most important participants of these strikes were migrant workers (nongmingong, peasant workers). During the strike wave they showed very strong collective consciousness and capacity for collective action.

China: Misery in Santa's workshop -- inside China's toy factories

A 2004 film shows that little has changed.

[For more discussion on China's economic and political development, click HERE.]

December 23, 2011 -- A new report by Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) reveals the terrible working conditions endured by workers who produce many of the toys that will be enjoyed by children in the Western world this Christmas.

In Guangdong province, from where 70% of China’s toys are exported, migrant workers’ official basic salary is around 850-1320 yuan a month (US$134-208), the statutory local minimum wage. The minimum wage is barely enough for self-subsistence.

West Papua: Support workers at the Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine striking for a wage increase

Statement by Asia-Pacific left and workers’ organisations

December 11, 2011 -- The strike started on September 15, 2011, and it involves nearly 12,000 workers. It was called after the negotiations between the union and the management went into deadlock.

The striking workers want to be paid US$7.50 per hour (for grade F1) to $18 per hour (for grade A5) instead of the US$2.10 per hour to $3.50 per hour they are currently receiving.

Their demands are for increases of 250% to 500%, but these wage demands are still much lower than the amounts workers are paid in other Freeport-McMoRan mines such as those in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. In negotiations the union has offered solutions, but these have been rejected by the management.

United States: Occupy protesters shut down major West Coast ports; Shutdown tactic debated

Above: December 13, 2011 Democracy Now! report on the port shutdown. Click here for transcript.

For more on the #Occupy movement, click here.

December 13, 2011 -- Socialist Worker -- Ports up and down the US West Coast were shut down or disrupted December 12 in a day of demonstrations organised by the Occupy movement to protest police repression and union-busting.

The call for the December 12 West Coast port shutdown originated in Oakland, where the high point of a general strike call on November 2 -- one week after a savage police attack on the Occupy Oakland encampment -- was a 15,000-strong march to the Port of Oakland and a community picket that stopped work on the evening shift.

COSATU leader on South African and Israeli apartheid

Address by Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, District Six Museum, Cape Town. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine's Cape Town hearings concluded that Israel is guilty of apartheid crimes. Its panel of jurists ruled that Israel's actions against the Palestinians breach the prohibition of apartheid under international law. Click here for more details of the tribunal's findings.

* * *

Black South African workers -- especially a mineworker like myself -- who bore the brunt of South African racial capitalism, and understood the purposes and mechanisms of apartheid, know that when we talk about the conditions faced by our Palestinian comrades we are talking about apartheid . -- Zwelinzima Vavi

Pakistan: Six workers' leaders sentenced to a total 490 years' jail! Solidarity needed!


On November 2 a protest demonstration was held in Lahore by the Labour Party Pakistan to denounce the jail sentences imposed on six leaders of the power loom workers' movement in Faisalabad.

By Khalid Mehmood and Farooq Tariq

November 2, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Power loom workers in Faisalabad in mid-2010 went on a series of major strikes and demonstrations. Six of their leaders were arrested by the police. Once in detention, they were additionally charged under anti-terrorist legislation. The six have now been sentenced to a total of almost 490 years' jail (served concurrently). This is a clear message of how "anti terror" laws are used against workers. The Labour Party Pakistan is calling for demonstrations outside Pakistan embassies and consulates around the world.

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