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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #20: International Left and Labour News

The twentieth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Peru, the USA, Bolivia, the UK, Canada and elsewhere.

Hammer and sickle image from the August issue of El Pueblo, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Ecuador

August 18:

The victory is unprecedented for the workers at the GM plant, which employs close to 7,000 people. The workers had reported serious irregularities in the voting process during the initial ballot in April this year and lodged the first-ever complaint under the rapid response mechanism, provided for in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).

To ensure a free, safe and transparent voting process, free from harassment and intimidation, the Mexican and US governments agreed to repeat the vote in the presence of independent observers from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Mexico's National Electoral Institute (INE), alongside federal work inspectors from the country's labour ministry.

August 20:

On August 20, Friday, working class organizations and other progressive groups in Norway demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, seeking government intervention in a labor dispute in Chile which involves the Norwegian state-owned hydropower company Stakraft. The groups which called the mobilization include the Socialist Revolution, Latin American Action Group (LAG)-Norway, and Red Party. Activists from the Oslo committee of the Communist Party of Norway (NKP) also participated.

August 21:

Janine Wissler, the lead candidate for the socialist Left Party (Die Linke), told DW that the German government was wrong to have completely halted development aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban took over.

Wissler, the 39-year-old co-chair of the party, said Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government ignored early warning signs in Afghanistan in order to avoid a debate over migrant and refugee arrivals in Germany — with just weeks to go until the September 26 polls.

August 22:

A street kitchen set up by the Australian Communist Party has been told it will need to relocate to a different part of the city to give food to homeless people.

The notification to move the service along came around the same time the group was paid a visit by Lois Boswell, the chief executive of SA's Department of Human Services.

Ms Boswell lives in the area and part-owns the nearby pub Sparkke at the Whitmore, prompting concerns from the local party branch that Ms Boswell has a conflict of interest.

India Walton, the democratic socialist candidate for mayor in Buffalo, New York who won the Democratic Party primary in June, took aim at four-term incumbent Mayor Byron Brown on Sunday over his attempts—alongside other members of the city's political establishment—to circumvent the will of the voters ahead of November's election.

Without calling the Democratic mayor out by name, Walton assured voters that if she had lost the primary, "I wouldn't be trying to change election laws and work with Republicans to override the will of Buffalonians."

August 23:

The Continental Articulation of Social and Popular Movements towards ALBA (ALBA Movements) warned on Monday about a coup against Peruvian president Pedro Castillo. The organization represents over 400 social movements in 25 countries of the region.

Since the swearing in of Peruvian president Pedro Castillo on July 28, Peru’s electorally defeated right-wing has been attempting to undermine and attack the newly formed government. The platform Social Movements of ALBA, which brings together more than 400 social movements from 25 Latin American countries, on August 22, has deemed that these actions are part of an ongoing coup d’état.

“From ALBA Movimientos and from every corner of the Great Homeland, we denounce the Peruvian right and its insistence on ignoring the popular majorities of this sister country,” said the organization in a statement.

ALBA Movimientos added that the efforts to oust Castillo precede his swearing in, and began when the right refused to acknowledge his electoral victory. They stressed that these destabilization attempts have been accentuated after the forced resignation of foreign minister Héctor Béjar last week on August 17, which the organization considered as the starting point of a counteroffensive and an ultra-reactionary coup.

The Socialist Party of Uruguay on Monday appointed its secretary general and deputy Gonzalo Civila as a candidate for the presidency of the Broad Front in the internal election slated for December.

According to a statement issued by its Central Committee, several political parties and groups spoke in favor during a Sunday session of the Central Committee via zoom.

The president of the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba (Parliament), Esteban Lazo, congratulated the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) on the 61st anniversary of its foundation.

Last year, while promising better pandemic-era treatment for their workers, gig companies like Lyft and Uber poured more than $200 million into a propaganda campaign in favor of Proposition 22, a ballot initiative in California that would solidify workers as something less than employees deserving full benefits. Despite driver protests, vigorous media campaigns from both sides, and the sheer obscenity of putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a political campaign that could otherwise have been spent on giving vulnerable drivers health care, the measure passed. And it seemed all but assured that, with the success of Prop 22, well-capitalized gig companies would replicate the model, pushing for similar measures across the country. Within days of Prop 22’s passage, activists discovered an emerging ad campaign in Illinois devoted to the same cause.

On Friday, the balance of power shifted—potentially dramatically—when California Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Proposition 22 was both unconstitutional and “unenforceable.”

For workers organizing a union at Colectivo Coffee Roasters, the last five months have been a grueling exercise in waiting.

“I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, I’m so nervous,” Lauretta Archibald, a former Colectivo baker and union activist, texted me in early April. That day, she and other union supporters had expected to learn the results of a union election a year in the making. They would wait much longer. Although a majority of ballots were counted on April 6, the result was a tie (99-to-99) with seven contested ballots remaining unopened.

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the remaining ballots and, by a margin of seven votes, the workers won union representation with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 494. The result will make Colectivo the largest unionized coffee chain in the country.

Dias was pledging his support to 700 workers represented by Unifor Local 673 and 112, who have been on strike since July 27 over the future location of the Dash 8 turboprop program.

De Havilland told workers earlier this year that it would no longer produce new Q400 aircraft at the Downsview facility beyond currently confirmed orders, and said two years ago that work will end at the site once lease agreements for the land expire.

The union has since been pushing de Havilland to commit to making the Dash 8 somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area when production resumes.

The Party of the Radical Left (PRL) in Serbia has expressed support and solidarity with the trade unions’ demands towards the minimum wage in the county. PRL has stated that “by serving various excuses, the state is again trying to prevent adequate increase in minimum wages and thus stepping aside to employers and to defend their profits, which is at the expense of workers and workers in Serbia. If this happens, the minimum wage will remain below the minimum consumer basket, which is constantly increasing due to the continuous increase in the prices of basic supplies and other supplies.”

“The lives of workers were sacrificed again for the profit of capitalists, who on the other hand were not affected by the price increase in Serbia”, added the PRL.

August 25:

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Rogelio Mayta, at today’s extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, with the presence of Luis Almagro. Mayta rails against OAS chief Almagro for disregard the recent report by the University of Salamanca that proves there was never any electoral fraud in Bolivia and calls on member states to reflect on whether the OAS is still a relevant organization.

Negotiations between IndustriALL, UNI and leading textile and garment brands signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have yielded a tentative agreement that continues the parties’ legally binding commitments to workplace safety in Bangladesh and expands the programme to other countries.

The renewed agreement preserves and advances the fundamental elements that made the Accord successful, including: respect for freedom of association; shared governance between labour and brands; a high level of transparency; safety committee training and worker awareness program; and a credible, independent complaints mechanism.

The escape of Bolivia’s ex-dictator, Jeanine Añez, is being organized by the main 2019 coup leaders along with the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee, all “under the complicity of some embassies of the country”, according to the Executive Committee of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB).

The Unite union is expected to develop a calmer but more distant relationship with the Labour party after the election of the leftwinger Sharon Graham as its first female general secretary on Wednesday.

Graham, who was the surprise winner in the three-way contest with 37.7% of the vote, was elected on a manifesto that said “we have tried our political project within Labour – it has failed”. She has said she intends to prioritise workplace organising in her new role.

Members from 28 political parties in 13 Arab countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine and Iraq, expressed their support for China's reiterated calls for a probe on the origins of the coronavirus in a scientific way, and lambasted the US and other countries for politicizing the search for the origins of the virus.

Tragically, a leading member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM - CWI in Nigeria), Nurudeen Alowonle, aka Omomeewa, was murdered leaving Lagos State University (LASU) late in the evening on 18 August.

The DSM "commiserates with and sends condolences to his wife, his four-month-old baby and entire family, wishing them the fortitude to bear this very painful loss."

Comrade Majekodunmi - a member of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, and staff adviser of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), who was accompanying Omomeewa, also sustained gunshot injuries and is currently hospitalised.

The developments in Afghanistan confirm the reactionary and for the peoples devastating character of imperialist wars and interventions. The fall of the Afghan puppet government and the return of the Islamist Taliban movement to power after the withdrawal of the US and NATO occupation forces of course mean a continuation of the sufferings of the Afghan people caused by the uninterrupted interference of imperialist forces in the country for decades.

The US and NATO intervention, which started in 2001 under the pretext of “war against terrorism” and “collective defence” under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, served the interests of the US in this strategically important region. For twenty years, the USA, together with its NATO partners, controlled this crucial crossroads in the neighbourhood of Russia and China. However, the planned end of their military presence, agreed with the Taliban, which we are witnessing today, also serves their interests. They leave behind a highly destabilized country where the different and competing interests of the Taliban, various tribal leaders and warlords meet with those of neighbouring powers such as China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Qatar. Moreover, the USA can now deploy forces and resources in other regions where they best serve its interests in the context of its competition with China.

Health-care support staff from across Manitoba have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, their union says.

Across Shared Health, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the Northern Health Region and Southern Health, workers voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

August 26:

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev will on August 27 offer the third and final mandate to seek to form a government to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), according to a statement by his office.

Following Bulgaria’s July early parliamentary elections, the first two exploratory mandates to seek to get a government elected by the National Assembly proved fruitless. If the third mandate fails, the President must dissolve Parliament and call what would be Bulgaria’s third parliamentary elections in 2021.

On Wednesday, the government called a meeting of the country’s political parties to see if if could build the necessary 75 percent supermajority of MPs required under law for it to pass a bill through parliament imposing a pay deal on the nurses currently on strike.

According to Peter Hummelgaard, the government believes its proposal has the support of enough MPs to pass, despite the opposition of the Socialist People’s Party, the Red-Green Alliance, and the Danish People’s Party. This is because the Socialist Left party, which would normally be expected to oppose such a measure, has decided to back the bill.

The bill, tabled to go through parliament on Thursday, will impose the pay agreement reached in mediation between nurses’ unions and Denmark’s regional health authorities. The agreement was rejected by the union’s membership.

After over two months of national strike and nationwide mobilizations earlier this year, this Thursday, Colombians resumed their struggle against the far-right government of President Iván Duque and the glaring social inequalities in the country. On August 26, as a part of a new national strike, thousands of Colombians took to the streets in the main cities of the country in rejection of a new tax reform bill promoted by the national government and in support of the ten bills presented on July 20 by different social sectors and trade unions.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) released a publication on Thursday with fruitful and comprehensive information to introduce its historic mission as well as past and future contributions to China and the rest of the world. During a press conference in Beijing, senior officials of the Party provided authoritative introductions and explanations to respond to unfair criticism and stigmatization from abroad against China's political system.

Workers at two more Indigo stores in Ontario have voted to unionize in the past two weeks, bringing the national total to six stores since the fall of 2020, with workers saying the pandemic exacerbated existing concerns they had about fairness, safety and pay.

August 27:

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and a coalition of other gig companies and business groups in Massachusetts are fighting a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, who is seeking to classify gig workers as employees under Massachusetts law and end what she calls the companies’ “unfair and exploitative practices”.

The companies filed a ballot proposal earlier this month to preserve their independent contractor business model and are gearing up for a long, expensive fight.

But the workers too are organizing to take on the companies they say expect them to work like employees but refuse to give them the benefits of that status.

"Adelaide pub Sparkke at the Whitmore has distanced itself from a push to move a nearby communist soup kitchen, declaring it remains committed to "inclusivity".

Earlier this month, one of the pub's directors, Lois Boswell, approached volunteers who ran the kitchen and queried whether they had a permit to operate out of Whitmore Square."

August 28:

The undersigned Asia-Pacific Regional Organizations of the Global Union Federations (GUFs) express their grave concern that the killing of trade unionists and violence and threats of violence against organizers and trade union leaders continue to escalate in the Philippines.

This systematic and widespread violence and threats and intimidation against trade union leaders, organizers and members creates an environment in which the fundamental right to freedom of association is no longer guaranteed. Every instance of violence perpetrated against trade union leaders and organizers constitutes a violation of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87).

Hundreds of New Brunswickers joined marches across the province in support of front-line health-care workers.

The marches were organized by CUPE N.B. and were held in 13 locations across the province, including Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.

"They need recognition, and they also need formal recognition from this government in terms of better wages for public workers, also better protections and sick days for the folks without unions," said union spokesperson Simon Ouellette.

Over 1,000 workers across 5 US states have walked off their jobs in Nabisco to demand a fair contract. The strike which began in Oregon has now spread to Illinois, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia. Workers are protesting low wages and long shifts extending up to 12 to 16 hours.


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