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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Chile, Gaza and Zambia: Red Review #6 -- International Left and Labour News

The sixth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Zambia, Kerala, the United States, Uruguay, Greece and elsewhere. There are also sections for news and solidarity statements related to Gaza and the historic victory of the left in Chile's constitutional elections.

Dr Fred M’membe, leader and presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of Zambia on the way to be officially nominated -- image via Facebook

May 13:

On May 13, Uruguay’s trade union center, the Inter-Union Plenary of Workers – National Convention of Workers (PIT-CNT), called for a 24-hour national strike on June 17 under the banner of “against hunger and inequality, for work and wages, in defense of life”. The PIT-CNT reported that the strike has been called to demand that the far-right government of President Luis Lacalle Pou take measures to combat the economic and social crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The union also informed members in all economic sectors will participate except healthcare, especially those working in COVID-19 health centers and vaccination centers.

The president of the PIT-CNT, Fernando Pereira, explained to La Diaria that the step had been taken due to “the lack of comprehensive, more universal social policies that cover all those affected by the pandemic, to avoid what we are witnessing, which is that people are starving in many parts of the country. The trade union movement cannot ignore the fact.”

The Greek working class has intensified protests against a new labor regulation bill proposed by the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government. On May 13 and 14, mobilizations were held under the leadership of the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) in different parts of Greece protesting the bill which would introduce several anti-worker policies. These include increasing work timings from eight hours to 10 hours per day, making Sunday a working day, restricting union activities, and curtailing the right to strike. On Thursday, May 13, a massive rally was held in Athens to demand the withdrawal of the anti-labor bill. reported that mobilizations also took pace in Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Lavrio, Patras, Ioannina, Preveza, Larissa, Volos, Zakynthos, Pyrgos, Samos, Syros, Ikaria, Kavala, Kefalonia, Kalamata, Chalkida, and other parts of the country. Several organizations including the Federation of Secondary Education Officers (OLME), Hellenic Teachers’ Federation (ILO), Association of Hospital Doctors of Athens – Piraeus (EINAP) and Students Struggle Front (MAS) participated in the protests. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) expressed solidarity with the workers’ protest and called on the government to withdraw the bill. The Greek working class had organized a national general strike protesting the bill on May 6 as well.

May 15:

The new two-year contract covers approximately 700 workers responsible for inspecting and maintaining VIA Rail cars. Highlights include a $1,000 lump sum, a two per cent wage increase for all workers, increased pension contributions for members of the hybrid plan, and new and improved benefits.

“The ratification of this agreement is a testament to Unifor’s commitment to our members,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “Despite industry challenges related to the pandemic, the bargaining committee was able to deliver a new agreement that addresses key worker concerns and moves our members forward.”

May 17:

BUS drivers in Manchester celebrated a historic victory today after defeating attempts to “fire and rehire” them.

The Go North West drivers voted overwhelmingly to accept a negotiated agreement, ending one of Britain’s longest-running industrial disputes after more than 80 days of strike action.

Unite said the company has agreed to the union’s demand that it will not use “fire and rehire,” which it says will safeguard pay and conditions for thousands of employees across the Go-Ahead Group.

May 18:

Former Kerala health minister KK Shailaja, who was praised for her handling the Covid crisis last year, has said that she has no qualms about being dropped out of the new Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet.

Talking to India Today TV, Shailaja said that she is not the only one, the entire cabinet has been replaced.

"It was a collective decision of the party. The party has decided to infuse new faces into the cabinet, which is a good thing. We certainly need to give the opportunity to others," KK Shailaja said.

“My campaign has won solidarity for striking steel workers resisting the bosses’ attacks at Alleghany Technologies Inc and for delivery drivers fighting for better working conditions in New York.

“In the face of persistent joblessness I have found widespread support for the demand for thirty hours work for forty hours pay to share the available work and for workers to build our own political party, a labor party on the road towards establishing a workers and farmers government.”

Socialist Party Parliamentary candidate for Kwacha constituency Grace Natasha Namunyola says a revolution in Kwacha constituency has started and has called on youths to lead.

Ms Namunyola said youths in the country should put their energies on bringing out issues that affect them adding that can only be done if they take political positions.

May 19:

These elections are a chance to say that after three decades of neoliberal capitalist destruction, we need to build a better socialist future anchored on justice, equity and peace. To rebuild the foundations of our economy through prioritising education, health and peasant agriculture.

FOUR YEARS INTO his experiment with reforming Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, Larry Krasner overwhelmingly won his primary race for reelection to the office of district attorney on Tuesday.

With 74 percent of votes counted, Krasner led his Democratic primary challenger Carlos Vega 65 percent to 35 percent, according to the Associated Press. Vega conceded the race shortly before midnight on Tuesday, and Krasner is all but assured victory in the November general election.

Thousands of workers of McDonald’s chain in 15 cities across the United States went on strike for wage hikes. On Wednesday, May 19, workers organized in the “Fight for 15” campaign participated in the one-day strike action across the country demanding that the minimum wages for workers at the McDonald’s chains be hiked to USD 15 per hour and the right to unionize.

The one-day strike was held in major cities including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Kansas City, St. Louis, Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville, Houston, and Milwaukee. Fight for 15, founded in 2012 as a coalition of low-paying workers’ groups in the US, has been fighting for a USD 15 minimum wage and union recognition for retail and fast-food workers ever since.

May 20:

The Socialist Workers Party has entered two candidates for November's Albany city elections.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Thursday administered oath of office and secrecy to Pinarayi Vijayan and 20 of his cabinet members at a function at central stadium in the state capital.

In the recently-concluded assembly elections, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) stormed back to power after winning a brute majority of 99 seats in the 140-member house. The lead Communist Party of India (Marxist), however, decided to drop all members of the outgoing ministry other than the chief minister to induct fresh faces. Junior partner Communist Party of India (CPI) followed suit by inducting four new faces.

The union say says the deal includes improvements for contract employees as well as wage increases and benefit improvements.

The tentative deal was reached late Wednesday night.

Unifor says the new contract will be voted on over the next two days.

May 21:

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is to begin signing co-operation agreements with a number of small left-wing breakaway parties ahead of the July 11 parliamentary elections, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said on May 21.

Two former Brazilian presidents overcame decades of political rivalry on Friday with a public show of common purpose: blocking Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro from gaining a second term next year.

Former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with centrist Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also a two-term former president, for lunch last week, in a move bringing Brazil's left and center closer to joining forces to oppose Bolsonaro.

More than 500 WestJet employees in Vancouver and Calgary have unionized with Unifor, saying a change in workplace culture after the airline’s sale was a big part of the workplace organization efforts.

The 531 WestJet workers – which include airport agents such as customer service workers – join more than 7,000 other unionized airline workers with Unifor under carriers like Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz.

While labour activists across Canada and the United States were glued to efforts to unionize Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, a much, much smaller unionization effort was unfolding at a mid-sized Ontario university. On April 14, 2021, 150 postdoctoral scholars at the University of Guelph voted 90.8 per cent in favour of joining the United Steelworkers Union (USW). It was the culmination of an 18-month grassroots campaign which resulted in making U Guelph postdocs the latest members of a growing movement of more than 10 English-language universities in Canada to improve the standing and working conditions of postdoctoral researchers in Canadian universities.

Teamsters Local 492 members have unanimously ratified a first-time contract with the Eldorado Area Water and Sanitation District, gaining wage increases and workplace protections.

The workers who service, inspect, test, repair and maintain the clean water management facilities in Eldorado, N.M., joined Local 492 in an NLRB election last August. The local worked hard during the pandemic to negotiate a strong agreement.

The contract includes wage increases, no-cost health care, safety improvements, a grievance procedure and other workplace protections.


An Italian port workers’ union has refused to load an arms shipment destined for Israel, as the country’s military continues to unleash air strikes on Gaza.

Union staff in the Tuscan city of Livorno would not load the shipment, claiming they had discovered it was destined for the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The port of Livorno will not be an accomplice in the massacre of the Palestinian people,” the L’Unione Sindacale di Base (USB) said in a statement.

PALESTINIAN workers shut down businesses in Israel today in a political strike against the bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, which continues to escalate as hospitals and infrastructure are targeted by missiles.

Big delivery firms and restaurants in Israel were among those forced to close their doors as Palestinian workers, who make up a large proportion of the workforce, walked out as part of a 24-hour general strike.

“At a time when so many, including our President, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence. It is long past time to end the US policy of unconditional military arms sales, particularly to governments that have violated human rights,”

Bringing relief to millions of Palestinians, a ceasefire came into effect in Gaza at 2 am on Friday, ending the 11-day-long Israeli offensive. The deal agreed upon by both Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad was mediated by Egypt on Thursday. Gazans celebrated the end of the offensive as a victory after Israel’s caretaker prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, in a statement, that the security cabinet had unanimously accepted it without any condition.

After the announcement of the ceasefire, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza came out on the streets waving Palestinian flags. Several Palestinians claimed on Twitter that Israel’s agreeing to the ceasefire deal is a “victory of the Palestinian People” and a defeat of Israel.


In an historic turn for Chile voters have repudiated the right and the forces who wished to preserve the neo-liberal 1980 constitution of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The right and supporters of the terrible legacy of Pinochet needed to win one-third of the seats in the election of a constitutional constituent assembly to have veto power over any attempt to rewrite it and change its clauses. In what is seen as a surprise, they failed to achieve this.

The elections were forced by a months long mass uprising in Chile that began in October 2019 and that saw widespread police brutality and state violence.

Candidates of the right-wing Vamos por Chile list backed by the governing party and President took only 36 of 155 seats in the assembly.

Meanwhile, the Communist led Frente Amplio took at least 27 seats and the social democratic Apruebo Dignidad took 25. Left independents took at least 48.

Communist leader and presidential candidate Daniel Jadue achieved a massive lead in the Recoleta municipal elections where, so far, he has obtained 64.61 percent.

According to Chile's Electoral Service (Servel), Chile's right-wing has suffered a significant loss, as their Vamos por Chile list has only received 36 of the 155 seats at the constitutional convention—less than a quarter of the total.

While the nationwide results for governors, mayors and councilors will not be known until later Sunday night, and final results may not be known for another week, the vote for Chile's constitutional convention has been tallied and announced this Sunday night.

In a surprise for Chile's left and independent parties, the center-left Apruebo list has received 24 seats while the left-wing Communist-Broad Front Apruebo Dignidad list has finished in second with 28 seats.

The country of Chile has decided to write a new Constitution, which will probably be the most democratic and representative in history, and maybe, just maybe, it could be the most progressive one.


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