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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #23 -- International Left and Labour News

The twenty-third edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Norway, Greece, Turkey, El Salvador, Spain and elsewhere. There are also updates related to the Teamsters Amazon drive in Canada and the gains made by unions against Amazon in Italy.

Teamsters rally in support of Amazon workers in California

September 11:

September 12:

September 13:

The Fernández-Kirchner government is one of many reformist governments in Latin America referred to as the Pink Tide, which enacted some modest reforms in times of economic prosperity but in times of crisis has carried out many of the same counterreforms and austerity measures as past governments. Beyond the return of the Right, one of the most important conclusions from Sunday’s primaries is that within the working class, there is growing support for an electoral force to the left of the Pink Tide. More than one million people cast their votes for the Workers’ Left Front – Unity (FIT-U), an electoral coalition of four Trotskyist parties. It was a historic result for the coalition, which now represents the third-largest electoral force in the country. The coalition’s anti-capitalist and radical-democratic demands, including the nonpayment of the external debt, the reduction of the working day to six hours without any decrease in pay, and a minimum wage equal to the true cost of living, resonated with voters in cities and provinces throughout the country.

It was the best performance yet for the FIT-U — commonly referred to as the Left Front — which formed 10 years ago. The results for the Trotskyist left were most impressive in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the country. In the province of Jujuy, home to tens of thousands of indigenous people and farm workers, the coalition won 20 percent of the vote. Its Congressional candidate in Jujuy, Alejandro Vilca, is himself a long-time sanitation worker. In Chubut, located in the far south of the country, and home to major fishing, mining, and oil industries, approximately 9 percent of voters backed the Left’s candidates. In the province of Neuquén, the bloc took around 8 percent. In the latter province, the Left Front slate was led by Raúl Godoy, a leader in the worker-occupied and managed Zanon tile factory. In the city and province of Buenos Aires, home to 70 percent of Argentina’s population, the coalition earned 6 and 5 percent, respectively.

The center-left bloc headed to a victory in Norway's elections Monday as official projections pointed to the governing Conservatives losing power after a campaign dominated by climate change and the future of the country’s oil and gas exploration industry.

With a projection based on a preliminary count of nearly 93% of the votes, the Labor Party and its two allies — the Socialist Left and the euroskeptic Center Party — would hold 100 seats in the 169-seat Stortinget assembly while the current government would get 68. One seat was still unsure.

The leftist Red Party made an historic breakthrough in the Norwegian elections on September 13 crossing the 4% threshold for the first time to win 8 seats in the parliament.

The election saw the country shift away from the right as the Labour Party and its allies the Centre Party and the Socialist Left won enough seats to defeat the government of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg that had held power since 2013.

The Red Party -- which was created by a merger of the Workers' Communist Party and the Red Electoral Alliance in 2007 -- ran on a platform that included making jobs a right, banning temp agencies, higher taxes on capital income, lowering the retirement age and other measures.

The party saw its vote increase from 2.4% and 70,522 votes in 2017 to 4.6% and 135,574 votes. This led to an increase in seats from 1 to 8.

President Xi Jinping began an inspection trip to Shaanxi province in northwestern China on Monday stressing the importance of environmental health and of maintaining the Communist Party’s revolutionary spirit, according to state media.

State news agency Xinhua reported that Xi visited a clean-coal enterprise, a large-scale soil erosion rehabilitation project and a revolutionary site during his first stop in the city of Yulin.

Xi is expected to attend the opening ceremony of the National Games in the provincial capital Xian on Wednesday evening. It will be China’s first major sporting event of the Covid-19 era and is seen as a rehearsal for Beijing’s Winter Olympics.

September 14:

Former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) organising secretary, K. P. Anil Kumar, has switched his political allegiance to the Communist Party India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] after launching a withering attack on the national and state leadership of the organisation he had served for 43 years.

Mr. Anil's defection to the CPI(M) on Monday is a fall out of the simmering factional dispute in the Congress in Kerala over the appointment of District Congress Committee (DCC) presidents.

To maintain the flow of profits pouring in from the increased demand, managers at Mondelez have been moving workers from traditional 9-to-5 schedules, sometimes to 12- and 16-hour shifts. However, officials have made no move to recall the hundreds of workers laid off when the company moved the plant’s Oreo production to Mexico in 2015. Mondelez, headquartered in Deerfield, Ill., has workers in the Asia Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Latin America, and North America.

“The company just refuses to hire more workers,” says Flowers-Lewis, “They’d rather work us to death than pay the benefits for more employees.” She has worked at the former Nabisco plant for 21 years and is the first shift steward in the plant’s packing department.

Teamsters Local Union 362 filed for a vote on union representation at the Amazon YEG 1 Fulfillment Centre in Nisku, AB, late yesterday afternoon. This represents the first step in the Teamsters Canada union organizing campaign to bring Amazon to the bargaining table.

“Amazon won’t change without a union. Be it on job security, pace of work, discrimination, favouritism, or wages, the company has proven itself to be profoundly anti-worker. Amazon workers need to know they are not alone and they have the power, through the Teamsters, to change things for the better,” said the national president of Teamsters Canada, François Laporte.

Around 400 union distillery workers in Bardstown, Kentucky, hit the picket line yesterday after rejecting a contract offer from Heaven Hill Distilleries, which included healthcare price hikes that reduce take-home pay, cuts to overtime, and drastic scheduling changes. Heaven Hill produces some of the most popular bourbon brands in the world, including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, and Old Fitzgerald. According to the website Inc. Fact, the company averages annual profits of over $500 million.

The head of Calgary’s biggest film workers union says COVID-19 vaccination requirements need to be toughened on Canadian film sets after several cases in the industry have forced productions to alter filming schedules.

September 15:

Salvadorans marched through the streets of the capital by the thousands on Wednesday, in the largest anti-government protest since Nayib Bukele took office.

On the Bicentennial of Central America’s independence from Spain, social movements and organizations from across the political spectrum protested in rejection of Bukele’s authoritarianism, militarization, political persecution, the removal of judges, pacts with gangs, and the Bitcoin law, amid mounting discontent.

The Coordinadora Salvadoreña de Movimientos Populares is a coordination initiative of more than 100 organizations and networks of organizations that struggle against the advancement of neoliberalism and authoritarianism in El Salvador and was one of the main groupings of social movements and organizations that mobilized today. Inc (AMZN.O) has struck a deal with Italian trade unions promising to engage with them more in the running of operations in the country.

The framework agreement, seen by Reuters, comes shortly after news that a group of Canadian workers are seeking to unionize as Amazon continues to manage discontent among some workers at its warehouses.

The draft of a new family code for Cuba released Wednesday proposes allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt as well as giving children greater participation in decisions that affect them.

The preliminary draft, which must be approved by Cuba’s parliament then go to a grassroots plebiscite, comes almost three years after the island’s communist government backed away from enshrining gay marriage protections in its new constitution in the face of opposition.

September 16:

In view of the new resolution against Cuba proposed in the European Parliament today, 16 September 2021, the European Left considers that this resolution constitutes an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of a country. This is intolerable and therefore the European Parliament needs to vote against it.

24 tons of donated medical supplies arrived in Cuba from China on Wednesday, making it the fourth batch to be sent in support of public health efforts to control Covid-19, in just a matter of weeks.

The latest shipment includes examination gloves, medical goggles, face shields, surgical masks, X-ray film and piperacillin. Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, said that the supplies will be immediately distributed by the Ministry of Public Health to hospitals and other health centers.

Since 2018, attacks on the CPI(M) have become routine. The communists in Tripura report that, between March 2018 and September 2020, 139 party offices have been set ablaze, 346 party offices have been vandalized, 200 offices of mass organizations have been vandalized, 190 homes of CPI(M) cadre have been destroyed, 2,871 homes of party workers have been attacked, 2,656 party workers have been physically assaulted, and 18 CPI(M) leaders and cadre have been killed.

The Spanish government has agreed to hike the minimum wage for the second time in less than two years, bowing to demands from its junior partner and unions despite resistance from business groups.

Spain’s Labor Ministry, controlled by leftist party Unidas Podemos, agreed with unions to raise the wage by 15 euros per month, or about 1.6%, according to a statement from the ministry late Thursday. The increase is applicable as of Sept. 1. The administration aims to increase it further, to as much as 1,049 euros ($1,236) per month by 2023.

The parties of Spain's center-left government including the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos are advancing in the polls while the main opposition party, Partido Popular (PP), has lost almost 3% of its support.

The figures are from the latest poll conducted by Spain's Center for Sociological Research (CIS) , a state-run institute.

The poll is the first of its kind since July.

After years of negotiating for a merger, three IndustriALL Global Union affiliates organizing in the textile, garment, shoe, and leather sectors held their inaugural congress in Harare on 12 September to form the Clothing, Leather and Textile Workers’ Federation (CLTWF).

The three unions that merged – the National Union of the Clothing Industry (NUCI), the Zimbabwe Leather, Shoe and Allied Workers Union (ZLSAWU), and the Zimbabwe Textile Workers’ Union (ZTWU) – agreed to work collectively in strengthening recruitment and organizing towards building a stronger union. As part of its plans to be inclusive, the CLTWF also formed youth and women committees during the launch.

Two thousand Washington carpenters went on strike on Thursday, out of 6,600 who currently work under the master agreement with the Association of General Contractors (AGC). Five jobs were picketed, including construction projects at Facebook’s Building X, Microsoft’s Campus in Redmond, and Alphabet’s Google.

A federal appellate court and federal appeals court both ruled Thursday that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown can’t appear on the mayoral ballot in November. Brown has attempted to launch a third party campaign after losing the Democratic primary to socialist India Walton.

The twin defeats mean that Brown officially cannot appear on the ballot, though he may still continue to urge supporters to write him in. Although Brown’s campaign had penned a petition to allow him to appear on the ballot, they turned in the petition months after the deadline to appear as a third party candidate had passed.

September 17:

The Teamsters Union has launched campaigns to organize employees in at least nine Canadian facilities of U.S. e-commerce company (AMZN.O), according to Reuters interviews with union officials.

The influential union took the first step earlier this week to organize employees at one of Amazon's Canadian facilities, and the interviews reveal it is widening such efforts across the country, where the e-commerce company employs about 25,000 workers and plans to add 15,000 more.

The struggle to unionize Amazon is shifting to Canada, where workers in Alberta could soon be the first to unionize an Amazon warehouse in North America. Workers at the “YEG1” facility in Nisku, Alberta, just outside Edmonton, filed for a union election on Monday, September 13. The election could be held in mere weeks, once the Alberta Labour Relations Board approves the application.

Workers at the relatively new facility in Nisku, which employs between 600 to 800 Amazon “associates,” have described rampant favoritism and discrimination against marginalized workers of color and immigrants. Job security, the pace of work and wages are also among Nisku workers’ top concerns, according to Christopher Monette, director of public affairs at Teamsters Canada.

Workers in the province's public daycares will be walking off the job for a day next Friday.

Earlier this week, 97 per cent of the 11,000 workers in Quebec's Centres de la petite enfance — commonly referred to as CPEs — voted in favour of a 10-day strike mandate.

The vote sent an "extremely strong message to the government," according to a statement from the union federation that represents the workers.

September 18:

COMMUNISTS in Iraq condemned the detention and harassment of leading party members today as security services continue to block them from campaigning for a boycott of next month’s parliamentary election.

Groups of Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) activists have been set upon by Iraqi government forces while distributing literature explaining why people should refuse to participate in the poll.

September 19:

Communist Party of India(CPI) State Secretary K. Ramakrishna on Saturday called for a massive movement cutting across partylines to press their demand for retaining the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant in the public sector and early grounding of the Kadapa Steel Plant.

The head of Russia's second-largest political party is alleging widespread violations in the election for a new parliament in which his party is widely expected to gain seats.

Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said on Saturday - the second of three days of voting in the election - that police and the elections commission must respond to reports of "a number of absolutely egregious facts" including ballot-stuffing in several regions.



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