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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #26 -- International Left and Labour News

The twenty-sixth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from South Africa, Spain, India, the United States, Cuba and elsewhere.

Workers of the South African National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) rally after the union called an indefinite strike for higher wages October 5

October 3:

Indigenous peoples and social movements of Bolivia are preparing to mobilize on October 12th in defense of the homeland, democracy and the wiphala, as the far-right radicalizes its efforts to destabilize Bolivia’s restored democracy.

President of the Six Federations of the Trópico of Cochabamba, Evo Morales made the announcement on his weekly Sunday program on Radio Kawsachun Coca, saying a mass concentration will be held in the city of Cochabamba with 50% of the Federation’s bases. Meanwhile, in La Paz, a march is being planned from Caracollo to the government headquarters.

“On October 12th, there will be a great mobilization in Cochabamba in defense of the homeland, of democracy, of the wiphala, of the process of change and of President Lucho,” said Evo Morales.

October 4:

The President of Bolivia, Luis Arce, swore in General Augusto Garcia Lara as the new commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the South American country on Monday, with the premise, he said, of upholding principles and supporting progress for Bolivians.

To commemorate the World Day of the Homeless and demand an increase in the budget for housing solutions, hundreds of Uruguayans marched under the slogan "Decent housing for all!" from the Mortgage Bank to the Legislative Palace on Monday.

Over 60,000 workers in the United States employed in major film and television production houses, including Disney, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, are set to go on strike. In a strike vote organized between October 1 and 3 by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), workers from three dozen local or union branches voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike. The results were released on Monday, October 4. Some of the demands include wage hikes, healthcare benefits and better working hours.

In a statement released by the IATSE, it was reported that a total of 53,411 members from 36 locals submitted their ballots in the strike vote. 13 of these locals are from the US West Coast, and 23 locals from States of Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois and New Mexico that operate under the Area Standards Agreement (a common agreement for workers outside production hubs like Los Angeles and New York).

This translates to a turnout of around 90% of the total eligible votes in the locals. 52,706 workers or around 99% of those who voted favored the strike, far surpassing the 75% threshold of total union membership required to authorize a strike. According to the IATSE, none of the locals reported less than 96% votes in favor of the strike.

In the spirit of union solidarity, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) membership overwhelmingly voted “YES” to give a strike authorization to its union leadership and its negotiation committee.

The membership came out in support of the strike authorization with 89.66% voter turnout and 98.68% “Yes” vote for strike authorization nationwide. Marisa Reyes, an IATSE local 705 member, said, “That is such a great turnout. So much unity.”

Italy’s center-left forces, spearheaded by the Democrats, were sweeping to victory Monday in Milan and other big city mayoral races while clinching a runoff berth in Rome, where the populist 5-Star Movement's Mayor Virginia Raggi faced a stinging defeat, according to partial vote counts and projections.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has demanded a high-level probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, adequate compensation for families of victims and the resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, asserting that such incidents cannot be tolerated in a democracy and farmers have every right to protest.

D Raja, CPI General Secretary, said that the Uttar Pradesh government has completely failed to address the concerns of farmers.

Left parties announce candidates for bypolls to 4 assembly seats

Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin protesting the detention of KPRF members following rallies in Moscow on September 20 and 25.

In the letter, the KPRF leader condemns the arrests as baseless and illegal, arguing that the “order-givers and perpetrators of these and a number of other illegal actions are guided not by the provisions of the law and the interests of public safety, but by poorly understood political expediency.”

October 5:

Tens of thousands of workers employed in the engineering and metals sectors took to the streets of the main cities ­ - Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Kimberley - on 5 October to demand living wages in the sectors after a deadlock in the negotiations.

On October 5, the South African National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) called for an indefinite strike (a strike without a set end date) to demand an 8-percent increase in wages — and 160,000 workers in the steel and engineering sector answered the call. The union, South Africa’s largest, represents 400,000 workers in total.

Spain's coalition government agreed on Tuesday on a draft law to control rents through a mix of coercive measures and tax incentives.

"The new bill seeks to contain the price of rents and reduce it," recently-appointed presidency minister Felix Bolanos told a news conference on Tuesday. Part of Bolanos's job is handling the relationship with parliament, which will have to ratify the bill.

The new bill would include tax incentives for small landlords who cut the rents they charge and would boost property taxes on houses left empty by their landlords, the minister told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.

The draft law will require 30% of new-build housing projects to be set aside for social housing, he said.

Cuba's scientists Gerardo Guillen, Eulogio Pimentel, Marta Ayala, Vicente Verez, Yury Valdes, Dagmar Garcia, Belinda Sanchez, Tammy Boggiano, Eduardo Ojito, and Lorenzo Perez were named "Work Heroes" for their merits in developing three COVID-19 vaccines.

The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) experts Pimentel, Ayala, and Guillen, developed the 92-percent-efficient Abdala COVID-19 vaccine and Mambisa vaccine, which is administered by nasal spray.

Cuba on Tuesday reached 48.9 percent of its population (5,470,999 people) with the complete Covid-19 vaccination scheme, the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) reported.

The scheme includes people with a third dose and COVID-19 convalescent patients to whom 'Soberana Plus' has been administered. The vaccine was initially designed for those who had overcome the disease and then was used as a booster of other immunizers.

According to the latest reports from MINSAP, 9,500,166 people have received at least the first dose of one of the local immunizers, representing 84.9 percent of the country's entire population (11 million, 180 thousand approximately).

Work at all of the Kellogg Company’s U.S. cereal plants came to a halt Tuesday as roughly 1,400 workers went on strike, but it wasn’t immediately clear how much the supply of Frosted Flakes or any of the company’s other iconic brands would be disrupted.

The strike includes plants in Omaha, Nebraska Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee.

When Gov. Phil Murphy fought for his current seat in the 2017 gubernatorial election, he faced constant questions – and criticism – about his former job as a finance executive at Goldman Sachs.

It's unlikely that Joanne Kuniansky will grapple with the same problem in 2021.

On Nov. 2, Kuniansky – the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) nomination for New Jersey governor – will match up against Murphy, the Democratic incumbent, and three other candidates who will appear on the ballot: Jack Ciattarelli (Republican Party), Gregg Mele (Libertarian Party) and Madelyn Hoffman (Green Party).

Kuniansky is currently working as a deli worker at Walmart, a gig that offers a stark contrast to Murphy's Goldman Sachs pedigree. But far from being a sandbag, Kuniansky's job gives her a front-row perspective on the fight for labor equality – a cornerstone of her campaign.

October 6:

Communists around the world are expressing solidarity with their sister party in Venezuela against what they described as political attacks and oppression in the run-up to local elections on Nov. 21.

In an open letter, more than 25 communist parties (as of press time) condemned the decision of Venezuela’s national electoral council to block Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and Popular Revolutionary Alternative candidates in the municipalities of Caracas and Macanao and in the state of Guaira.

Formal coalition talks between the Social Democratic Party, Greens and pro-business Free Democrats aimed at forming the next German government could start imminently after the parties gave the green light Wednesday.

The announcement, made Wednesday morning, boosts the SPD’s chances of leading the next coalition government, with the party’s candidate for chancellor, Olaf Scholz, one step closer to succeeding outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and leading Europe’s largest economy into a new era.

Qizhala, chairman of the Tibet autonomous region in China’s mountainous west, has left Lhasa to take up a new job in Beijing, according to a source close to the government.

His vacancy is expected to be filled by Lhasa Communist Party chief Yan Jinhai in a reshuffle that is part of the build-up to the five-yearly party congress next autumn.

In a statement on Sunday, 3 October on the fascist attack against members of the KKE and KNE, the Press Office of the CC of the KKE notes the following:

“The cowardly and murderous attack that took place today by fascist criminals against members of the KKE and KNE while they were conducting a political campaign with the Call of the CC of the KKE in Ilioupoli, Thessaloniki, follows the recent fascist attacks in Thessaloniki and other regions and constitutes an overall attack against the people and the youth that will not remain unanswered by the workers’–people’s movement. The mass popular action will isolate and crush the fascist criminal elements.

Fifty members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are on strike for a fair contract at Sulzer Pumps, in Barboursville, West Virginia, USA.

Dozens of healthcare workers - including nurses, techs, transport, environmental, and dietary workers - walked out of Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY at 6am on October 1st, and were greeted by thousands of their coworkers, community members, faith leaders, and elected officials. Mercy Hospital workers - roughly 2,000 members of CWA Local 1133 - are now in the 6th day of their strike, the first in healthcare in District 1 since 1987.

Workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art recently announced plans to form a union, joining a nationwide wave of workers pushing for better working conditions in cultural institutions.

The organizers intend to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local council 67.

According to their mission statement, the organizers intend to “build a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable institution and change the long-standing cultural canon of privilege” at the museum.

The organizers are calling for job security, fair wages, input on decisions that impact workers, accountability on behalf of management and administration, manageable workloads, and safe working conditions.

October 7:

An agreement between Spain’s governing coalition partners on the need to overhaul housing legislation could soon introduce new rules in the rental market, including caps on price hikes by landlords and higher taxes for vacant properties.

If the draft approved on Tuesday by the Cabinet gets parliamentary approval, it will add Spain to the list of European countries with rent control. Soaring rent is an ongoing issue in a country where investors and real estate trusts have been buying properties from Sareb, the “bad bank” set up by the government after the property bubble burst in Spain, and which is designed to help lenders offload their toxic real estate assets. The draft law’s cap on rent will target this kind of real estate owner. A study by the Bank of Spain found that the average cost of rent rose 50% between 2014 and 2019.

Young people in Spain could be paid $US290 ($AU399) to move out of their parents’ home, under proposals put forward by President Pedro Sanchez.

Speaking at the Spain Urban Forum on Tuesday, Sanchez, who is the leader of the Spanish coalition-government, revealed plans to combat high rents and make it easier for low-earning young Spaniards to find a house of their own.

The plans could see people aged between 18 and 35 with an annual income of less than 23,725 euros ($US26,900 ($AU36,992)) – roughly ​​€1,977 ($US2,285 ($AU3,142)) a month – be paid 250 euros ($US290 ($AU399)) a month to put towards their rent, per a post on the Spanish presidential website.

The 13th Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC) on Thursday concluded its fourth plenary session after completing all set agenda, Vietnam News Agency reported.

At the session, members of the committee discussed COVID-19 prevention and control and related policies under new circumstances, as well as the country's socio-economic situation in 2021 and development plan in 2022.

While there is no formal boycott at Kellogg, a BCTGM spokesperson told the Huffington Post that “supporters and consumers could certainly support the Kellogg workers and their fight for a fair contract by choosing not to buy Kellogg cereal while the strike is ongoing.” However, Bradshaw is unequivocal on the matter. “No one should buy anything made by Kellogg’s right now,” he says.

Picket lines are up and running at the striking facilities. While Kellogg has said it is “implementing contingency plans” in an attempt to reduce the strike’s effectiveness in disrupting production, that hasn’t shaken workers’ resolve.

“We’re here to fight them one day longer than, one day stronger than we have to,” says Bradshaw. “We’re fighting corporate greed, and that’s a big ugly monster to fight.”

On October 7, the World Day for Decent Work, app-based delivery workers took to the streets – their workplace – to demand that Ontario #MakeGigWorkDecentWork.

While Gig Workers United was rallying at Queen's Park to promote the Gig Workers' Bill of Rights — a joint initiative with the Ontario Federation of Labour — at least two banner drops, one on the freeway and one on Kensington Market rooftop, carried the message "Gig work is real work. Make it decent work."

October 9:

The National Secretariat of the Communist Party of India expresses its opposition to the sale of Air India as it is against the national interest.

Air India was mismanaged by successive governments but in spite of this the carrier has done stellar services during every emergency either man made or natural as a government carrier. Government has sold all assets at a very low price when the carrier had started making operative profits since 2015-16. This is in tune with government policy of selling national assets for private profit. It is wrong to sell assets created with public funds for private profits.

Air India has efficient work force and it has potential to emerge as one of the best air carriers in the world.

Air India is the pride of the nation. The Modi government should reconsider its distress decision.

The Czech Communist Party on Saturday scored under a five-percent threshold in a general election, preliminary results showed, meaning it will be out of parliament for the first time since World War II.

The once-dominant Communists garnered just 3.81 percent of the vote with more than 85 percent of ballots counted.

October 10:

Iraq’s early parliamentary elections on 10 October 2021 were characterised by a very low turnout, at about 20%, confirming the fact that Iraqi voters have no confidence in an electoral system designed to perpetuate the corrupt ethno-sectarian power-sharing system that was installed after the US war and occupation of the country in 2003.

The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has said its Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) would begin a nationwide strike on Monday, December 11, over the deplorable state of the nation’s highways and other issues.

Norway’s election-winning Labor Party agreed to form a minority government with another proponent of oil exploration, the agrarian and euro-skeptic Center Party.

The parties, which command 76 seats in the 169-member parliament, plan to present the result of their talks on Wednesday, Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store told journalists outside Oslo. That’s one day after the outgoing Conservative-led government submits the draft budget to lawmakers. The coalition deal is due to be signed on Thursday, Store said.

Store, the millionaire head of Labor, had aimed to form a three-party majority bloc including the Socialist Left Party, mirroring a set-up that ruled for two terms starting 2005. But the Socialists, who had earlier signaled opposition to continuing oil and gas exploration, walked out of the talks last week.

October 11:

A controversial cabinet reshuffle this week has served to show just how difficult it can be to implement radical and redistributive change. President Pedro Castillo won Peru’s June 6th elections in the second round. His flagship policies were; a new constitution and the nationalization of natural resources. The expulsion of US forces (military bases, USAID, DEA) was also part of the winning manifesto. However, all those promises have run up against corporate interests, which appear to have forced the government into a corner following the controversial cabinet reshuffle.

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met at New Delhi on October 9-10, 2021. It has issued the following communique.

SI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli expressed her solidarity with the Italian Trade Union movement, after its headquarters in Rome came under violent attack by far-right militants on Saturday.

Fascist agitators threw smoke bombs and occupied offices of the CGIL; part of a series of orchestrated attacks against unionists and public service workers, which left three nurses and two police officers injured.


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