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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #28 -- International Left and Labour News

The twenty-eighth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from the United States, Spain, Swaziland, India, Cuba, China, Canada and elsewhere.

John Deere workers on strike in the USA -- photo via Twitter

October 17:

In the elections held to local bodies in North Macedonia on Sunday, October 17, left-wing party Levica (The Left) made significant gains across the country. Levica will now have 51 elected representatives in 30 municipal councils out of 81 cities in the country, a giant leap from its previous tally of just three. The general outcome of the elections, which saw a 48.7% polling turnout, was disappointing for the incumbent Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). The major opposition party, the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE, won sixteen mayorships in the first round itself with the SDSM confined to just nine. A pro-Albanian coalition partner of the incumbent SDSM led-coalition, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), also won three Albanian-dominated municipalities. The second round run-offs for mayorships of many cities is likely to take place within two weeks.

October 18:

Speaking to supporters at the end of his Socialist Party's three-day congress in Valencia, Mr Sánchez said that the practice "enslaves" women.

Prostitution was decriminalised in Spain in 1995 and in 2016 the UN estimated the country's sex industry was worth €3.7bn (£3.1bn, $4.2bn).

Cuba joined the Alliance for Energy of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project to build an international mega-platform for cooperation and exchange under the principle of shared profit. The announcement was issued by the Cuban Foreign Ministry in a statement this Monday, October 18.

The Cuban ambassador in Beijing, Carlos Miguel Pereira, highlighted the importance of the initiative for the expansion and diversification of collaboration in the energy sector, to collectively overcome the challenges faced worldwide.

The 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party will hold its sixth plenary session from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11 in Beijing, which will deliberate a resolution “on the major achievements and historical experience of the Party's 100 years of endeavors," according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The decision was made Monday at a meeting of the party’s Politburo, China’s top decision-making body, chaired by President Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua.

On Monday, Socialist Party general secretary Cosmas Musumali narrated to The Mast that UPND supporters travelling in four-wheel drive vehicles attacked a Socialist Party camp in Kaumbwe, Petauke in the early hours of Sunday.

Dr Musumali said the attack was unwarranted and unprovoked.

“It was brutal! All the people that were in the camp were badly beaten, four of them have sustained very serious injuries,” Dr Musumali said. “Amongst the four is an SP member who is over 70 years. His condition is pretty critical. We are going to monitor and ensure that he recovers as quickly as possible.”

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) expresses its serious concern over the outbreak of communal violence and clashes during the Durga Puja period in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh government has deployed forces to quell the violence and assured that justice will be delivered punishing those responsible for triggering this communal violence. At least four people have reportedly lost their lives in police firing and several arrested in a countrywide crackdown.

Bengalis, for centuries, have observed the Puja festivities in a harmonious manner irrespective of people's religious beliefs. Bangladesh observed this tradition all along. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) hopes that this tradition will be maintained and strengthened.

The rise in the activities of the religious fundamentalism is of common concern to many countries in our region. Government of Bangladesh must make all efforts to restore peace, normalcy and tranquility.

October 19:

Today, Teamsters Local Union 987 filed an application for certification to represent workers at Amazon’s YYC 1 fulfillment centre, located near the Calgary airport.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) will consider the application for certification and will decide at a later date if a vote should be held to determine whether these workers will be represented by the Teamsters Union.

This is the second application for certification among Amazon workers in Alberta. On September 13, 2021, Teamsters Local Union 362 applied to the ALRB for certification at Amazon’s YEG 1 warehouse in Nisku. The Union is waiting for the Board’s decision. That application was the first step in the Canadian Teamsters campaign to unionize workers at this American company.

Quebec daycare workers represented by the Syndicat québécois des employés de service held a second strike day Tuesday after members voted 95 per cent to reject an immediate partial pay raise offer from the provincial government.

The union representing some workers at LifeLabs, the largest provider of medical laboratory services in British Columbia, has issued a strike notice on behalf of its members.

The B.C. General Employees' Union says notice was issued Tuesday, putting its roughly 1,500 members in a legal strike position by Friday night.

"In July, we took a strike vote, and it was overwhelmingly in favour. It was 98 per cent," BCGEU president Stephanie Smith told CBC News

Some 1,900 nurses, members of Communications Workers Local 1133, are hanging tough—despite pain from months of dealing with coronavirus victims—as their forced strike against South Buffalo’s Mercy Hospital neared three weeks.

At midnight on September 30, the national agreement expired between Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Healthcare Unions: 21 locals representing 52,000 workers. Now 35,000 of them have authorized strikes.

The heart of the conflict is a two-tier wage proposal, a rarity in health care. The company wants to create regional wage scales for everyone hired after 2022—meaning a giant cut in pay.

Kaiser isn’t hurting financially; last year it netted $6.4 billion, and it even returned $500 million in CARES Act funding to the federal government.

The low-cost retailer Dollar General has the highest number of store locations in America, with over 17,600 stores in 46 states, and its golden and black logo has become ubiquitous across the country.

Willy Solis, 43, Instacart shopper since October 2019, lead organizer with the Gig Workers Collective

The company’s rapid footprint is continuing to grow, as a staggering nearly one out of every three retail stores opening in America this year is now a Dollar General. All that business generates dizzying revenue too: the company reported $33.7bn in sales last fiscal year.

Currently, none of the thousands of Dollar General retail stores are unionized, as the company is aggressively opposed to unions with a company philosophy of remaining “union free”. Yet a handful of workers at a Dollar General store in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, are pushing to change that, with a union election scheduled for 22 October to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

October 20:

Korean unions, led by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), staged a general strike across the country on 20 October to protest attacks on freedom of association, demand union rights, and to call for a Just Transition. IndustriALL Global Union affiliates the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) and Korea Chemical & Textile Workers’ Federation (KCTF) joined the strike.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions used the popular Netflix series Squid Game in a video to mobilize workers to join the 20 October general strike.

The left-wing political party in Slovenia, Levica, has intensified its protest against police repression in the country. On Wednesday, October 20, Levica along with other opposition parties, protested against minister of interior Ales Hojs, holding him responsible for creating an emergency situation in the capital Ljubljana by repressing the anti-government protests using excessive police force. Levica accused the Janez Jansa-led right-wing coalition government of using police repression to quell the continuing protests against unpopular governance in the country.

The New Communist Party of the Netherlands (NCPN) and the Communist Youth Movement(CJB) condemn the excessive police violenceagainst peaceful protesters during the housing demonstration in Rotterdam on the 17th of October, 2021. The overwhelming presence of a myriad of mounted police, military police, as well as plainclothes officers, led to unnecessary escalation of the demonstration.

A group of peaceful protesters was surrounded by Dutch military police during the march across the Erasmus bridge,thereby essentially separating the protesters in two parts. In reaction to the violence by the police, the NCPN- and CJB-members locked their arms in order to protect each other and other protesters.

During the course of the demonstration, it became known that a CJB-member (who happens to be a minor) had been beaten, strangled, and subsequently arrested, allegedlyfor insulting an officer. We strongly condemn this ridiculous and disproportionate display of violence by Dutch police forces. It is absurd that the working class continues to be met with violence and repression when standing for their constitutional right to housing.

The images of the police measures speak for themselves, though it is necessary to contextualize them in a broader recent trend of increasingly violent police intervention during demonstrations. We will not be discouraged by this aggression. Our struggle for bringing about a society in which everyone has a home continues. Both the NCPN and the CJB call upon everyone to be present at all the housing demonstrations that will be organised in the coming months!

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, a group of taxi drivers in New York City with the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance began a hunger strike to demand that the city enact life-saving debt relief to workers who have been taken advantage of and squeezed to the breaking point. The infiltration of app-based rideshare services like Uber and Lyft has been disastrous for taxi workers and their industry, undercutting rates and creating a perpetual race to the bottom for everyone. On top of that, taxi drivers in New York City, many of whom are immigrants and people of color, have found themselves crushed under the weight of massive debt and are facing financial ruin. This debt stems from the artificially inflated cost of taxi medallions, the city-issued permits drivers are required to have to own a cab and pick up street hails in the city.

Cathy Rojas, the socialists candidate for New York City mayor, drew a crowd on Oct. 20 as she stood outside the studio where New York City’s mayoral debates were being held and answered the questions presented to mainstream candidates inside the studio right there on the street.

Why wasn’t Rojas in the studio standing in front of the cameras beside Democratic Party candidate Eric Adams and Republican Party candidate Curtis Silwa? Rojas was barred from participating in the debate on WNBC-TV because she hadn’t raised hundreds of thousands and dollars for her campaign.

Electoral debates in the city of New York are a game of pay-to-play. If a campaign cannot raise hundreds of thousands in funds within a short amount of time they are barred from the conversation, and New Yorkers lose out on hearing about policies they need and deserve. Billionaires and millionaires put forward their candidates, while candidates that represent working-class interests, like Cathy Rojas are effectively silenced.

October 21:

On Wednesday 20 October 2021, Africa’s last absolute monarch, Mswati III, once again unleashed his vicious security forces to shoot and kill innocent and unarmed civilians who advocate for democracy. The regime once again shut down the internet, to conceal its crimes.

Close to 50 protesters were heavily assaulted in various places in the city and outskirts. There are fears that there may have been some killed or that some may succumb to their injuries.

The Mbabane Government Hospital floors were like a warzone as they were drenched in blood. Health workers and staff were overwhelmed by the carnage.

The royal police went a step further and invaded the hospital, shooting even nurses as they attended to the injured, worsening the situation.

Amazon workers plan to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board next Monday, after months of organizing and collecting over 2,000 union authorization cards from employees at a warehouse in New York City.

The move will be the latest bid to organize a union at Amazon – which has opposed unionization of its huge workforce – by a labor movement seeking to flex its muscles as the US economy emerges from the pandemic.

People in Ontario who drive or deliver for apps such as Uber, Lyft and Skip the Dishes are calling on Premier Doug Ford's government to grant them basic workers' rights by classifying them as employees.

It's an issue that directly affects hundreds of thousands of people who work in the province's gig economy, and could have implications for all workers across Ontario and in other provinces.

The agreement extends union members’ recall rights, including pandemic-related recall rights until March 2023, indefinite recall rights for any renovation-related layoffs, and 78 weeks of recall rights for any other layoff. As well, members’ job security language has been strengthened with a commitment not to convert the hotel premises to condominiums. The agreement also introduces a Racial Justice Advocate position to support Black, Indigenous and racialized workers.

The agreement’s comprehensive economic improvements include wage increases, higher employer contributions to both health and pension benefits, nine months of family prescription drug coverage for laid off full-time workers, a $5 per day meal supplement, and the enhanced retirement allowance, the highest in the Toronto hotel sector, has been maintained. The employer also agreed to a repayment timetable for the remainder of the employer’s delinquent payments to the employee health and welfare fund and pension plan.

October 22:

The undersigned Communist and Workers Parties denounce the Paraguayan government to the international community for the illegal detention of Carmen Villalba, who is still being held in the Asunción Women's Prison, in Paraguay, despite the effective fulfillment of her sentence.

In this regard, we note that Carmen Villalba was sentenced by a final judicial sentence to 15 years in prison plus 3 years for security measures, having served said sentence in July of this year and obtained a resolution of freedom for embezzlement in this case. In the same way, a firm sentence to 17 years in prison weighs on her in a case that, being extinct, should never have reached a sentence. In this case, Carmen Villalba has also exceeded 17 years of sentence, on July 4 of this year. Since then and to date, her legal defense has requested her release by compurgation, a procedure that has been subject to an unjustifiable and illegal delay, considering the constitutional guarantees at stake, such as freedom of movement, the principle of legality, among others.

Hundreds of workers from Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned ports company stormed its headquarters on Friday, breaking windows, burning furniture and clashing with police over what they say are more than three years of unpaid wages.

The police fired cans of tear gas into the building in the capital Kinshasa as the workers from the Commercial Society of Ports and Transports (SCPT) danced around a pile of burning furniture on the front steps and threw rocks at the officers.

"Though Walton, a socialist, won the Democratic primary for the position in June, the New York state’s Democratic Party establishment has aligned itself against her. Schumer’s endorsement stands in contrast to his state’s party, though it is standard for party leaders to endorse the party’s candidate in significant races.

Schumer appeared to acknowledge shady tactics waged by the state party’s establishment in his endorsement. “India Walton won the Democratic primary fair and square and is the nominee,” he wrote. “Throughout my career, I have worked long, hard, and diligently to bring federal resources to Western New York and I look forward to doing that with India Walton for the betterment of the people of Buffalo.”"

Canada's federal government revealed its new pandemic recovery programs on Thursday, set to replace the expiring Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) expiring on Oct. 23.

But labour unions are ringing alarm bells, claiming the new primarily employer-directed programs fail to adequately protect the three-quarters of a million workers who rely on CRB.

At 1 a.m. a strike commenced at Shorelines Casino Belleville. Picket lines will be erected later in the morning.

Bargaining committees for Unifor Local 1090 and the employer worked late into the night to reach an agreement. Parties will resume meetings again on Friday, October 22 with the goal of resolving the dispute to resume casino operations.

Local 1090 members at Shorelines Belleville rejected the employer's most recent offer by 84% on October 20. The union represents 93 workers at the casino in table games, slots, food and beverage, kitchen and culinary, facilities and housekeeping, guest services, and cashiering.

The Supreme Court upheld a 2019 tribunal ruling in favour of the Pay Equity Act, paving the way for nurses and other workers in for-profit long-term care homes to get pay increases and significant back pay, union officials say.

October 23:

MEP Kateřina Konečná was elected leader of the Communist Party on Saturday in a change of guard following the party’s crushing defeat in October’s general elections.

She was elected by an overwhelming majority, getting 160 out of 175 votes. Her main rivals for the post Josef Skála, who represents the party’s conservative faction, and Hana Aulická Jírovcová got 70 and 63 votes respectively.

Party leader Vojtěch Filip announced his resignation from the top post following the party’s election debacle when it received only 3.6 percent of the vote, meaning that, for the first time in the country’s post-communist history, it will not be represented in the Chamber of Deputies.

October 24:

The National Executive Committee(NEC) of the Correctional Services Union has urged members to stop taking unlawful orders to harm or kill civilians.

In a public statement sent to this Swaziland News on Sunday, Mzwandile Dlamini, the Secretary General of the Eswatini Correctional Services Staff Association(ECOSSA) said as the NEC, they regretted and condemned the ongoing brutal massacre of unarmed citizens of Swaziland.

“These citizens are our brothers and sisters, hence our position to stand against any brutality towards the citizenry.ECOSSA encourages true and meaningful dialogue as opposed to violence. Our organization hereby encourages it's members to stick to their professional mandate of defending and protecting citizens of Swaziland when conducting national duties.No one has a right to kill and harm another as dictated upon by our National Constitution.Therefore members of ECOSSA are warned not to partake in the alleged crimes against humanity. You are hereby warned against taking unlawful orders to harm or kill our citizens”, read the statement in part.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) on Sunday continues the sessions of its 2nd Plenary Session to analyze fundamental issues in the life of the organization and the progress of policies for the national development.

Gathered at Havana's International Conference Center, the PCC members opened the debate on the improvement of the Party's work, the permanent exchange with the people on the processes of the economy, and the implementation of measures for the socialist state enterprise and other sectors.

Two unions say the Ontario government and its hospitals need to do a better job of protecting workers from workplace violence.

According to SEIU Healthcare and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the number of violent incidents against hospital workers is on the rise. The two unions represent 70,000 front-line hospital workers.

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