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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #110 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Zambia, Brazil, Canada, the UK, the USA, Niger and elsewhere.

Rally in protest of the arrest of Socialist Party of Zambia leader Fred M'membe -- photo via Fred M'membe

August 2:

On 1 and 2 August, political activists and members of Brazil's union groups and social movements held demonstrations against high interest rates and to defend industrial policy, employment, income, and workers’ rights.

According to World Bank data, Brazil has some of the highest real interest rates in the world. Workers in the country argue that the high rates are deepening inequality, increasing people’s debt levels, hindering economic growth and hampering job and income generation.

This is why they took to the streets outside the central bank’s headquarters in Porto Alegre's old town during a two-day meeting of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (Copom). At this meeting, Copom announced that the base rate known as Selic would be lowered from 13.75% to 13.25%, a cut of only 0.5 percentage points, which the unions describe as unacceptable and insufficient.

August 3:

During a press conference held in Ramallah on Thursday, August 3, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said that Palestine is increasingly looking to China to help achieve the goal of national self-determination.

When addressing press, al-Maliki also called the Biden administration weak and accused it of continuing the anti-Palestinian policies initiated under his predecessor Donald Trump, despite assurances to the contrary.

He noted that the Biden administration has failed to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem which historically attended Palestinians and has refused to allow the opening of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington DC as promised.

Al-Maliki said that Palestinians are “disappointed with the US administration of President Joe Biden for its failure to keep its promises it pledged to the Palestinians.” He said that the Biden administration had failed to “fulfill its promises to back down from the decision of former US president Donald Trump, who violated US policy and recognized Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel.

On Thursday, August 3, the Glasgow Sheriff Court acquitted activist Nathan Hennebry of the Young Communist League (YCL) in a case filed against him during the 2021 COP26 climate protests in Glasgow. YCL-Britain in a statement on Thursday applauded the verdict and said that Hennebry was the only person to face trial from the COP26 arrests, adding that it was clear that the Scotland police was attempting to target YCL and the Communist Party.

While the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, or COP 26, was being held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow from October 31 to November 13, 2021, more than 100,000 activists from climate action groups and leftist youth groups had gathered in the city, organizing marches and other events demanding concrete proposals from the summit to mitigate the impact of climate change. The YCL contingent of the main march on November 6 in Glasgow under the banner ‘Socialism or Extinction’ was heavily cordoned off by the police. Nathan Hennebry, the Glasgow YCL secretary, was one of several arrested during the course of those protests. Hennebry was accused of holding a flare at the march in a manner that could have caused injury to police officers at the protest.

According to a Morning Star report, the case against Hennebry collapsed when two police witnesses at the trial produced different accounts of the incident.

August 4:

In a huge victory, the United Steelworkers union (USW) has successfully negotiated and secured the first-ever collective agreement for Starbucks workers at the Calgary Millrise Centre store. The workers voted to accept their new three-year contract on Thursday. This milestone agreement sets a new standard for workers’ rights and protections within the coffee industry and reinforces the USW’s commitment to advocating for fair wages, workplace safety and improved working conditions.

After months of negotiations, the contract becomes the first unionized corporate Starbucks agreement reached in Alberta and the second in Canada with the USW.

“Reaching this deal is such a ground-breaking achievement for us because it does not just benefit the Starbucks workers in Calgary, it sets a precedent for all Starbucks workers as well as the broader coffee industry,” said Jacob Dickenscheid, USW Local 1-207 bargaining committee member.

August 5:

On Saturday, Amazon workers and rank-and-file activists across the country shut down Amazon’s BHX4 centre in Coventry.

The equivalent of twenty-four football pitches in floor-space, Amazon’s BHX4 sits at the heart of the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of UK logistics – a strategic area of warehouses that can hit roughly 90% of all addresses within 4 hours by road.

At 3pm, as hundreds of trade unionists from all over England were travelling to the rally called by the Rank and File Combine and Amazon workers in the GMB union, Amazon’s Seattle HQ instructed the local management to close the BHX4 centre and send home all the workers on full pay.

It’s difficult to overestimate the significance of that achievement. BHX4 is a ‘cross dock facility’. That means goods destined for almost all of Amazon’s twenty UK distribution centres will pass through this one monster warehouse.

For the past twelve months, dozens, then hundreds, and now over a thousand workers at the sprawling three-floor establishment have been fighting for their rights, overcoming union-busting tactics by one of the world’s most powerful companies to demand an end to poverty wages and a £15-per hour basic rate.

On Saturday 5 August, one year since strikes began in 2022, Amazon was forced to close down its Coventry nerve centre. As one worker said in his speech, this is the first time an Amazon strike has closed down a warehouse.

August 6:

Every year for decades, on the anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, anti-nuclear weapons activists in the San Francisco Bay Area have remembered the hundreds of thousands who died in those attacks and rallied for the abolition of nuclear arms. Usually, protesters have rallied, marched, engaged in die-ins and risked arrest at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of two national laboratories designing every warhead and bomb in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In COVID times, actions have been virtual.

This year, activists again gathered in person at the Lab, but the program was different. They not only carried forward their campaign to end the only weapon that could effectively wipe out life on Earth, they also gathered to remember and honor longtime Bay Area resident Daniel Ellsberg, who had marched, spoken, participated in die-ins and subjected himself to arrest there most years in recent decades. Daniel Ellsberg passed away from pancreatic cancer on June 16.

Approximately 30,000 people gathered in Niger’s capital of Niamey on August 6, as the country faced a looming threat of military intervention led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. However, as the deadline set by ECOWAS expired on Sunday, the regional bloc held an emergency virtual meeting with the African Union to discuss the situation in Niger.

The bloc did not publicly comment on the expiration of its ultimatum, but did on August 7 issue a brief statement, announcing that the chair of ECOWAS, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, had convened a second Extraordinary Summit of the Authority which would take place in Abuja on August 10, to discuss “the political situation and recent developments in Niger.”

August 7:

With the courageous Starbucks union movement continuing to forge ahead despite all of the relentless intimidation tactics by the corporation, Starbucks Workers United (SWU) is calling on people in the US to "Adopt a store" to show solidarity on Monday, August 7.

The stores they want adopted are non-union ones. What does "adopting" mean?

"On August 7th, we’re asking Starbucks customers and allies to “adopt” a non-union store to support workers in their communities. Adopting a store simply means holding a small flyering action to engage customers and passerby in the campaign through in-person connections."

Visual effects (VFX) crews at Marvel are laying down Thor’s hammer and have voted to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union announced August 7.

VFX workers have been without a union for decades but have grown more vocal about representation in recent months. On Monday, IATSE announced that a “supermajority” of Marvel’s more than 50-worker crew have signed authorization cards saying they wanted to be represented by the union.

August 8:

The president of the Socialist Party (SP) of Zambia, Dr. Fred M’membe was arrested by police on August 8. The leader and veteran journalist was charged with the offense of libel, after he was summoned for questioning at the Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka on Tuesday.

As M’membe arrived at the police station, members of the SP and supporters gathered in the area in solidarity, carrying the banner of the Student Socialist Movement, the flags of the SP, and placards with slogans that read “Hands Off Our President!”

“We are survivors of all the attacks that Imperialism has carried out against our nations," Cabello said.

On Tuesday, Roberto Morales, a member of the Political Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party, held a meeting in Havana with the first Vice President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello.

Both political leaders signed agreements to strengthen friendship, cooperation, dialogue, communication, mutual learning and political trust between their parties.

Supporters of a former historical marker dedicated to a feminist and labor activist from New Hampshire who also led the U.S. Communist Party sued the state Monday, saying officials violated a law around administrative procedures and should put it back up.

The green and white sign describing the life of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was installed May 1 in Concord close to where she was born Aug. 7, 1890. It was one of more than 275 across the state that describe people and places, from Revolutionary War soldiers to contemporary sports figures. But it was taken down two weeks after it went up.

Known as “The Rebel Girl” for her fiery speeches, Flynn was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and advocated for women’s voting rights and access to birth control. The marker said she joined the Communist Party in 1936 and was sent to prison in 1951. She was one of many party members prosecuted “under the notorious Smith Act,” the marker said, which forbade attempts to advocate, abet or teach the violent destruction of the U.S. government.

Flynn later chaired the Communist Party of the United States. She died at 74 in Moscow during a visit in 1964.

Thousands of Los Angeles city employees including sanitation workers, lifeguards and traffic officers walked off the job Tuesday for a 24-hour strike demanding higher wages and alleging unfair labor practices.

Picket lines went up before dawn at Los Angeles International Airport and other locations, and a large rally was held later in the morning downtown at City Hall. SEIU Local 721 said mechanics, engineers and airport custodians are among the more than 11,000 LA city workers who are striking.

The union said its members voted to authorize the one-day walkout because the city has failed to bargain in good faith and engaged in labor practices that restricted employee and union rights.

The union representing Manitoba's Liquor Mart employees says it's stepping up job action and launching a provincewide strike starting Tuesday morning.

The move is the latest in an ongoing labour dispute between Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, which represents about 1,400 Liquor Mart workers.

It also comes after the Crown corporation announced Sunday that it was closing an additional 10 Liquor Marts across the province.

At a news conference Tuesday, MGEU president Kyle Ross said the union has no other option than to move to a provincewide strike in response to "escalating lockouts and intimidation tactics."

August 9:

3,700 Metro grocery workers have been on strike in Ontario since July 29 and they need our solidarity. Workers from 27 stores in Toronto, Brantford, Orangeville, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, North York, Islington, Willowdale, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Newmarket, and Scarborough are demanding a just deal from the company and wages they can really live on.

“This decision to go on strike comes after years of these workers being nickelled and dimed while facing increased precarity and eroded job quality. It comes after having pandemic pay stripped away. It comes at a time of record profits and soaring CEO compensation. It comes at a time when life has become simply unaffordable for so many of these workers who risked their health and safety during the pandemic,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President.

Justice for Workers is calling on people to show their solidarity on Wednesday, August 9 by joining a picket line, sharing a solidarity selfie, putting up posters in their neighbourhoods and contacting their MPPs.

In the latest evidence that Silicon Valley bosses hate workers who stand up for themselves, a Google subcontractor, Accenture PLC, fired more than two-thirds of its Google Help staffers–80 of the 119–for their unionizing efforts with Alphabet Workers Union, Communications Workers Local 9889.

AWU promptly filed a labor law-breaking complaint of illegal retaliation with the National Labor Relations Board’s San Francisco regional office.

Accenture said the firings of Google Help launch coordinators, graphic designers and writers in plants in the Bay Area and Austin, Texas started August 7 and will last through December. To add insult to injury, the remaining to-be-fired workers are being ordered to train their replacements, who will work from the Philippines and India, the union said.

“It’s interesting that Google claims they’ve got no responsibility to us as workers, even though we spend every day working on Google products, under conditions set by the company,” Accenture and Google general writer Tahlia Kirk told CWA.


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