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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Solidarity with Palestine and Colombia: Red Review #5 -- International Left and Labour News

The fifth edition of our new weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Canada, the United States, India, France and elsewhere. There are also sections for news and solidarity statements related to Palestine and the uprising in Colombia.

As many as 100,000 people marched in London, UK in solidarity with Palestine, May 15 -- image via Twitter

May 7:

Brazil’s leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is back in the political mix, laying the groundwork in Brasilia this week to challenge far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s election.

The popular former union leader has not said whether he will run for president in October 2022, but opinion polls show he may have a strong shot at defeating Bolsonaro after the Supreme Court threw out his graft convictions.

May 9:

On Sunday, May 9th members of the French Communist Party (PCF) voted overwhelmingly to run the first Communist candidate for President in 15 years as well as to nominate Fabien Roussel as that candidate.

A longtime party leader, Roussel is the current National Secretary of the French Communist Party and is a deputy in the National Assembly.

Party members voted 72.47% in favour of running a PCF candidate and 82.32% for Roussel.

May 10:

Mahavir Narwal, the scientist and communist whose daughter Natasha Narwal has been jailed without trial for just under a year, died of COVID-19 in a Rohtak hospital on Sunday, his family and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said. He was 71 and had been undergoing treatment for a week.

Natasha Narwal, an activist with the women’s group Pinjra Tod and a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, was arrested by the Delhi Police on May 30, 2020 under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, shortly after a Delhi court granted her bail in a case in which the police had merely accused her of shouting slogans. Under UAPA, the grant of bail is extremely difficult.

On 10 May, around 20 garment workers at the Ha-meem group, supplying garments for among others H&M, Gap and Zara, suffered injuries from rubber bullets during a demonstration demanding an extension of Eid holidays, from three to at least the usual ten days.

A five-day training session on local legislation kicked off in Shanghai on Monday, bringing together legislators from 15 provincial-level regions, as well as those from Beijing and Shanghai.

A total of 337 participants received training on the history of the Communist Party of China, the scope and limits of local legislative powers, the procedure and technical standards of local legislation, and the document recording and reviewing work, among others.

May 11:

Wine Rack workers voted 86% in support of strike action yesterday. The workers, members of SEIU Local 2, say low wages, basic job security and fairness are all key issues. Wine Rack is owned by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan through one of its holdings, Arterra Wines Canada.

The workers say they are being asked to accept terms that would not address a severe problem with their hours and job security. Current wages and working conditions have resulted in a stunning annual employee turnover rate of 50%. Workers are seeking a deal which will give them the ability to work sufficient hours at a fair wage. Wine Rack has so far refused to provide workers with this basic level of dignified work. In addition, management has proposed a Manager-in-Training program which workers say is a thinly veiled scheme to further erode their hours, if not eviscerate their union altogether.

Unifor Local 112 members at Jobsite Industrial made significant gains in a strong first contract.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union today delivered a petition signed by 1,156 individuals to tech contractor HCL America Inc., when the two sides met for negotiations.

An overwhelming majority of bargaining unit members at HCL signed the petition calling for the company to negotiate in good faith for a fair first contract for workers who first voted in favor of joining the USW in 2019.

May 12:

With a near 100 per cent majority, ArcelorMittal workers in Canada’s Quebec region have rejected the last offer from company management and called for an indefinite strike over wages, pensions and broken promises.

About 40 employees working for a large union federation have voted in favour of a strike mandate.

The workers are employed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) in Quebec, and their union is represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the FTQ union. They include advisers, recruiters and administrative employees who work for the federation, which represents 200,000 members.

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets of the capital and other cities marking the second anniversary of the massacre committed against the protesters at the army square. On that day two years ago over three hundreds were cowardly assassinated, scores were arrested, tortured and raped .

-Part of the demonstrators forced their way into the army square demanding justice for the martyrs. A group of soldiers fired live ammunition in the air. While the protesters were peacefully leaving the square, another round of bullets were shot at the protesters. Three protesters were killed, over thirty were injured, and scores were arrested.

The withdrawal means that IndustriALL, UNI and local unions in Bangladesh will no longer be part of the RSC and its Board of Directors—stripping away any credibility of the RSC as an effective worker safety organization.

The RSC was created by the Accord through negotiations with the Bangladeshi garment industry in order to include factory owners as stakeholders, with the understanding of a new legally-binding agreement between unions and brands to succeed the Accord.

The global unions cannot accept replacing the extremely effective Accord model with an alternative proposal from brands derived from the failed approaches of the decades prior to the Rana Plaza industrial homicide.

May 13:

This weekend, on May 15 and 16, in historic elections, around 15 million Chileans will go to the polls to elect the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention. The Constitutional Convention is the body that will have the responsibility of writing the country’s new constitution to replace the current one, which was drafted and imposed in 1980 under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

Along with these elections, regional and municipal elections will also be held, in which Chileans will elect 16 regional governors, 345 mayors and 2,240 municipal councilors for the period 2021-2025. These elections were originally scheduled for October 25, 2020, but were postponed to April 11, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 17 this year, a reform was passed to allow the elections to take place over two days, April 10 and 11. However, on 7 April, the elections were once again delayed to May 15 and 16 due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

Ahead of the elections, we try to answer some of the key questions regarding the upcoming crucial electoral process, which will also define the mood of the electorate with respect to the presidential and legislative elections in November.

Bargaining between the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor and municipal employees represented by the CUPE 1349 have reached an impasse. The union has informed the employer that they will not be responding to the latest proposal package. A consultant from Halifax, hired by the Town to conduct bargaining on their behalf, will be filing an application for conciliation with the provincial department of labour.

The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is calling on the public to boycott the Hilton Metrotown and Pacific Gateway Hotel as UNITE HERE Local 40 workers battle draconian layoffs and wage and benefit roll backs. Representing nearly fifty affiliated unions with some 500,000 members across the province, the BCFED is asking its members and the broader public not to cross picket lines or do business with the two hotels.

“Our affiliated unions are cancelling bookings and avoiding future events worth millions of dollars a year,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BCFED. “It is shameful that these hotels are drawing on government COVID relief money and wage subsidies while they fire or refuse to call back workers and seek to undermine decades of worker gains.”

Unifor is launching a national campaign calling on all elected provincial, territorial and federal legislators to enact anti-scab legislation, to restore balance to collective bargaining.

"Scabs remove any incentive for the boss to bargain fairly and they tip the balance of power in favour of employers," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "When the boss can fly in scabs, it undermines the workers who want to exercise their right to withdraw services when an employer is unreasonable."

The Ontario-based HVAC, plumbing, and electrical provider locked out more than 830 members of Unifor Local 1999 across the province before exhausting all its options at the bargaining table, Unifor said.

"We were prepared to bargain around the clock to avoid a lock out and any disruptions to customers," said James Tauvette, President of Local 1999. "But the company was not prepared to significantly move from their position, which was rejected by the membership. We can't reach a fair collective agreement without the good faith participation of Reliance."

An overwhelming majority of the workers at Modern Cannabis (MOCA) in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago have signed authorization cards for an NLRB election that will allow them to become members of Teamsters Local 777.

"This is the second location at this company where the workers have filed for an election to join the Teamsters," said Jim Glimco, President of Local 777. "Cannabis professionals throughout both Illinois and North America realize that the union that represents workers from A to Z – airline mechanics to zookeepers – is the best choice for a collective bargaining representative."

May 14:

It’s been almost two weeks since workers at a chocolate factory in Toronto’s west end walked off the job.

Nestlé Canada and Unifor Local 252, which represents the 470 or so employees at the Sterling Road plant, recently sat down to negotiate a new contract, but talks broke down and the workers went on strike May 1.

The key issues are permanent, full-time jobs for casual/seasonal workers, who make up roughly half the workforce, and pension contributions.

Unionized nursing home workers agreed to postpone strikes planned for Friday at 26 facilities across Connecticut after Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration reached an agreement with union leaders and nursing homes operators that includes $267 million in state funds to help pay for historic wage increases.

The workers including nurses, nurses aides, housekeeping staff and laundry workers have threatened to walk out over what they call poverty-level wages and dangerously low staffing levels.

A SOCIALIST councillor has been suspended from the Labour group on Edinburgh council after refusing to back a budget that includes cutting funding for communities.

Councillor Gordon Munro has been suspended for three months after abstaining in a February vote on the SNP-Labour administration’s budget.

Unifor is urging the federal government to send Canadian observers to oversee the upcoming union vote at the General Motors (GM) plant in Silao, Mexico.

"This vote is a flashpoint in the fight for workers' rights in Mexico and North America," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who served as an advisor to the Canadian team that negotiated new labour provisions in the CUSMA trade agreement, aimed at upholding fundamental worker rights in Mexico.

Thousands of General Motors autoworkers at the Mexican truck plant are preparing to re-do a union certification vote marred by corruption and alleged criminal interference by their current union.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has reportedly staked a claim on four Cabinet portfolios. By one account, the CPI has insisted on retaining Revenue, Agriculture, Forest and Food and Civil Supplies.


Imagine if this had happened in Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba or any other country targeted by western imperialism.

If you ever had any doubt that the Lima Group, Canada, the United States and other western and pro-imperialist countries really never cared about "democracy" or civil rights at all you need only look at their non-existent response to the extreme state violence in Colombia and the basically total silence about it in the mainstream media.

Extreme state violence is just fine as long as the regime is right-wing, pro-business and supports the overthrow of socialist governments globally and regionally.

Solidarity statements:

Gaza Attacks / West Bank protests:

Israeli security forces have killed 11 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, as multiple protests erupted amid growing anger over Israel’s intensifying aerial bombardment in Gaza and the threat of forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

Hasan al-Attar stood quietly inside the morgue, staring at the bodies of his daughter, Lamya, and three other children belonging to the same family. Wearing his fireman’s vest, he bent over to kiss his daughter, before the refrigeration unit door was closed.

“Pray for her,” a colleague said, clasping his hand on Hasan’s shoulder.

Lamya and the children – the siblings Amir and Islam al-Attar – and Mohammed al-Attar were killed overnight on Friday in Beit Lahia, after an Israeli air raid bombed the house they were staying in.

A building that housed international media offices including Al Jazeera’s in the Gaza Strip has been hit by an Israeli air raid that demolished the structure.

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties in Saturday’s attack. Live Al Jazeera video showed the 11-storey Al-Jalaa building, which also houses a number of residences and other offices, crashing to the ground after being bombed as dust and debris flew into the air.

The building also housed The Associated Press news agency bureau.

A senior Chinese official on Friday accused Washington of obstructing United Nations (UN) operation on the escalating Israeli-Palestine conflict. "What is the motive behind the U.S. move?" she asked.

Most of the members of the UN Security Council have expressed concerns over the situation while imploring the UNSC to play its role and cool down the tensions, said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing. Yet unfortunately, the U.S., on its own, opposed a joint statement in a UN emergency meeting on Wednesday, she added.

Washington is known to be Israel's long-term ally.

Solidarity statements:


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