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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #29 -- International Left and Labour News

The twenty-ninth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Canada, the United States, Sudan, Spain, Portugal, Cuba, and elsewhere.

A CUPE worker on strike in New Brunswick, Canada -- image via video still

October 24:

The country is faced with the consequences of decades of right-wing policies, which deepened injustices, inequalities and exploitation, as well as structural deficits in the productive, technological, energy and demographic fields.

The covid-19 epidemic has laid bare even more structural weaknesses and various vulnerabilities, worsened by the use that capital makes of it.

October 25:

October 26:

As dawn broke in the early hours of October 26, Ecuador’s Indigenous communities had already started the most recent “paro nacional”, or national shutdown in English, by bringing main transit arteries to a halt in the countryside to mark the beginning of a day of protest against a hike in fuel prices.

Spain’s first housing law inched closer to becoming a reality on Tuesday after the cabinet approved a draft text that will reward landlords who lower rents and penalise those with multiple empty homes.

The ruling Socialist Party had been at loggerheads with junior coalition partners Unidas Podemos for months over the bill but hammered out an agreement last month as part of a broader accord to pass the 2022 budget.

Under the law, regional governments can declare areas as in “high demand” when the average household spends over 30% of its net income on rent or mortgage costs and bills and if property prices have risen more than 5% above inflation.

On October 26, fast food workers in 12 cities across the U.S. struck to demand an end to sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the company’s 40,000+ stores globally. While in April McDonald’s corporation announced a company-wide set of global brand standards to combat sexual harassment, there was no mention of workers or union consultation, an “essential element” according to both ILO conventions 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work and 155 on occupational safety and health.

The Communist Party of Canada condemns the traitorous actions of the Sudanese military which overthrew the civilian government it was a partner in, in a coup d’etat October 25th.

The hopes of the Sudanese people for a peaceful path to national sovereignty and independence, to peace,l progress and social and economic advance via this alliance of civilian and military forces, has been blown apart.

Delegates at the 51st Annual Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) Convention re-elected Danny Cavanagh as NSFL President to a third two-year term.

“I’d like to thank the working people of Nova Scotia for their continued support in this important role as leader of Nova Scotia’s labour movement”, says Cavanagh.

Unifor Local 112 and 673 members ratified new agreements with De Havilland Aircraft of Canada today, ending a three-month long strike at the aircraft manufacturer's Downsview facility in Toronto.

October 27:

In the wake of the military coup in Sudan Communists around the world are rallying in support of their Sudanese comrades.

100% of Cuba's eligible population has received at least a first dose of one of our nationally developed anti-COVID-19 vaccines, thanks to an intense mass immunization campaign against the dangerous disease.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, as of October 24, some 9,805,148 Cubans have been administered at least one dose; 8,808,197 had received a second injection, and 6,744,499 the third. A total of 7,030,356 Cubans have completed the entire regimen, which represents 62.8% of the country’s population.

Portugal is on course for a snap general election after its parliament rejected the proposed state budget for 2022 on Wednesday evening.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa was defeated by 117 votes to 108, with five abstentions, after left-wing parties, including the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), refused to back the Socialist Party’s budget.

It is the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1974 that a budget proposal has been rejected in Portugal. Costa said he would not resign in the wake of the vote, but admitted that it was a “personal defeat.”

It’s not unique in the history of workers, but the Amazon workers at the retail monster’s Staten Island fulfillment center and four warehouses are trying something relatively rare: Forming their own independent union and organizing from the bottom up.

Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, says the legal victory means no employer can ever offer their employees inducements to undermine union collective bargaining.

The Unite leader says union members have been resolute in their six-year battle to defend union rights: Their victory will affect union members everywhere across the UK.

October 28:

In labor news, a striking John Deere worker was fatally struck by a car Wednesday as he crossed a street to join a picket line outside a warehouse in Milan, Illinois. Fifty-six-year-old Richard Rich was pronounced dead at the scene. The local police chief said he did not believe the driver intended to hit Rich.

Student workers at Harvard University went on strike for the second time in as many years Wednesday, the first day of a planned three-day work stoppage in pursuit of a new union contract.

Key issues for the United Auto Workers-affiliated union are pay, a union security clause requiring that student workers be union members and contractual protections against harassment and discrimination.

October 29:

A new petition to Canada's parliament calls on the Canadian government to take a stronger stance in opposition to the continuing US economic blockade of Cuba. The decades long blockade -- which is opposed by almost every country in the world, including ostensibly Canada -- was intensified under the Trump administration. In June, for the 29th year in a row the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to call for the "ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo, imposed by the USA against Cuba". The vote was a staggering 184 in favour with only the United States and Israel voting against. (Three nations abstained).

There were initially high hopes that the new Biden administration would ease the sanctions. But, so far, that has not happened.

Higgs's comments came hours after thousands of members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees went on strike.

Schools stayed closed as bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers didn't show up for work.

Workers from other union locals, which include provincial park staff, education assistants, social workers and community college employees also went on strike.

Shelter workers at the Lennox and Addington Interval House (LAIH) initiated a strike on Friday, October 29, 2021.

"The decision to strike is never taken lightly, but members at the Lennox and Addington Interval House are firmly united in this decision. They know that workers and clients of the shelter deserve better than what management has offered at the table,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Members told their employer that enough is enough- the years of working short staffed must end, both for their well-being, and for clients of the homes.”

Workers at a Sydport-based metal fabrication facility have overwhelmingly voted in favour of joining Canada’s largest private-sector union.

When the votes were counted earlier this week, workers at East Coast Metal Fabrication opted to join Unifor and are now preparing to negotiate their first contract.

Unifor says that under the new deal, the average wage will increase by 13 per cent over the next three years, with some classifications receiving a 24 per cent bump.

The workers will also see the amount they pay for benefits reduced by half.

UFCW 500 members at Benny & Co. rotisserie on Notre-Dame Street in Repentigny unanimously endorsed a new collective agreement that will modernize working conditions at the restaurant for years to come.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Union Federations condemned in a statement Israel’s designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as "terrorist organizations."

"This step by Israel is outrageous. The human rights groups in Palestine are doing vital work in protecting the rights of Palestinians and in working for transparency and accountability of Israel’s occupation of Palestine," said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

Unite the union has chalked up another pay victory in its nationwide campaign to ensure that the UK’s HGV lorry drivers receive substantial pay rises and improved conditions when they are on road.

This time 39 XPO drivers working on the Wavin contract in Chippenham, Wiltshire have received a 20 per cent increase in a one-year deal starting this month.

This news follows hard on the heels of tanker drivers employed by Turners (Soham) Ltd on the Cargill contract in Liverpool securing a bumper 17.5 per cent pay deal and there has been an up to 23 per cent pay increase for drivers employed by GXO, formally XPO Primary Logistics, at sites across the UK.

Unite Scotland has revealed that apprentice painters and decorators across Scotland are set to receive a ‘massive boost’ in wages of up to 8.5% in an agreement between the trade union, the Scottish Decorators Federation and the apprenticeship body.

GMB has today welcomed the news that GMB refuse workers at Serco in the Derbyshire Dales have won their dispute, delivering a pay deal and package of support for members at the company.

Climate change activists have accused the Green Party of "betraying" young people by "doing nothing" to save the planet.

Protesters dressed as grim reapers staged a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Green Party in Dublin.

The activists, who are members of the Socialist Party, accused the Greens of being part of an "anti-green" Government.

The Left parties staged a protest against the steep hike in prices of petroleum products, near Kaleswara Rao Market in the city on Thursday.

The police physically lifted the protesting Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders, and workers of the front organisations, who virtually laid siege to the roads in the vicinity. Traffic came to a grinding halt for some time. The protesters raised slogans against the Central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Senior Liberals and New Democrats are kicking around the idea of reaching a deal that would allow the government to go three years without falling on a confidence vote.

Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh met secretly to discuss the parliamentary session ahead. Officials would not say that they discussed a deal that would see the NDP agree ahead of time to support the government through three budgets, but sources say the idea is being discussed at senior levels inside both parties, although there have been no negotiations.

The idea is not to establish a coalition—with NDP ministers in cabinet—but a deal like the one reached in Ontario in 1985, when then-NDP-leader Bob Rae agreed to vote with Liberals under David Peterson while they worked on an agreed-on agenda for two years. Some people in both parties say such a deal—this one for three years—could remove the regular pressure of confidence votes and allow the parties to work on shared priorities.

CUPE spokesperson Simon Ouellette said CUPE president Steve Drost has been in contact with Higgs, but that talks were not fruitful.

"It didn't go very far with the premier," said Ouellette. "He seems to have dug in his heels unfortunately.

"He's not interested in offering wages that are above inflation, which is difficult to understand after he's predicting a fifth consecutive surplus, and we're talking about the folks who ... are getting us out of the pandemic."

Journalists at Politico, the inside-the-Beltway news outlet that was sold in August to the German publisher Axel Springer for more than $1 billion, announced Friday that they were moving to form a union and seeking voluntary recognition from their new owner.

The new unit, called the PEN Guild and affiliated with the NewsGuild, a union that represents journalists at other news outlets (including The New York Times), said it would represent more than 250 journalists at Politico and E&E News, a site covering energy and the environment that Politico acquired last year.

Metro RTA employees who are members of Transport Workers Union Local 1 may go on strike or picket next week, the transportation agency announced Friday afternoon.

In a news release, Metro said although it hasn't been served with a valid Notice of Intent to Strike and Picket by TWU, as required by Ohio law, Metro said it "has reason to believe" the union may strike or picket starting Thursday, Nov. 4, which could result in disrupted or no transit service starting that day.

Workers hoping to unionize Starbucks stores in the U.S. have won a preliminary victory before the National Labor Relations Board.

The board said employees at three separate Starbucks stores in Buffalo, New York, can hold union elections in November in a new ruling. The board rejected Starbucks' attempt to hold a single vote with 20 stores in the region.

October 30:

The rain and cold didn’t keep Mercy Hospital workers away from the picket line in South Buffalo. They’ve now been striking for 30 days.

CWA members say they won’t leave the picket until they receive better benefits, higher wages and a better plan for safe staffing. Saturday, New York City advocate Jumaane Williams railed with workers.

Employees said they appreciate the support they’ve been receiving from all across New York State.

Negotiators for John Deere and the United Auto Workers have reached a tentative agreement for a new labor contract, according to officials.

The tentative agreement will still need approval from UAW workers to go into effect. John Deere officials said that the agreement would last for six years for the union’s 10,100 employees.

Since last month, production line workers at the El Milagro tortilla factories have organized walkouts and rallies with the help of workers’ rights group Arise Chicago.

The workers sought to call attention to what they say are unsafe working conditions, unfair labor practices, intimidation from management, and incidents of sexual harassment.

Laura Garza of Arise Chicago says this has been a busy week for the workers at El Milagro hoping to improve their working conditions. Tuesday, organizers filed complaints with the Chicago Office of Labor Standards about paid sick leave and fair work week violations as well as the Illinois Department of Labor on violations of the One Day Rest in Seven Act. The following day, El Milagro announced it is ending its seven-day workweek and workers will get Sundays off beginning in November.

October 31:

On Sunday, October 31 at 1 PM, Milwaukee’s sixth Caravan to lift the US economic blockade against Cuba will gather in the Mitchell Park Domes parking lot. This coincides with President Biden‘s meeting on Friday with Pope Francis, who played a major role in facilitating the thaw in US/Cuba relations during the Obama-Biden administration, and both governments publicly thanked him for doing so. However, Biden has so far accepted all of the over 200 unilateral measures taken by his predecessor against Cuba, in reversing Obama’s historic move towards normalization.

Prominent Catholics in Cuba and Cuban-Americans have asked Francis to again raise this situation in his meeting with President Biden this week, consistent with the long standing positions of both the Vatican and the US Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops opposing the 60 year old U.S. economic blockade, and the added sanctions even during the pandemic designed to “starve” the island (according to Mike Pompeo, the last U.S. Secretary of State).

The New Brunswick government on Sunday locked out all non-designated employees in CUPE locals 1253 and 2745, including custodians, bus drivers, school library assistants and administrative support, as well as a number of educational assistants, as workers continue to strike over wages.


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