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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #66 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Greece, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, South Africa, Swaziland, the USA, Ukraine and elsewhere.

There are also updates on Sri Lanka.

Member of the Political Bureau and Secretary of Organization of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (CCPCC), Roberto Morales Ojeda, receives on July 14 the member of the Political Bureau and responsible for International Relations of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Giorgios Marino

July 9:

200,000 workers, trade unionists, progressive activists and more gathered at the Durham Miners’ Gala on July 9 after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19 regulations. The festival organized by Durham Miners’ Association featured speakers such as Mick Lynch from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Sharon Graham of Unite, Jo Grady from University and Colleges Union (UCU), Patrick Roach from teachers’ union NASUWT, and Yvette Williams from Justice4Grenfell.

This year’s Gala was dedicated to all essential workers who risked their lives to keep society running during the COVID-19 pandemic. To honor those workers, Holly Johnston, a nurse and member of the GMB trade union and Rohan Kon, a postal worker and member of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were invited to address the event. More than 50 Durham miners’ banners and more than 50 brass bands participated in this year’s gala.

July 11:

Another Western New York Starbucks has officially unionized.

Starbucks Workers United announced Monday that the employees at the Transit Commons location voted 11-1 in the union election, becoming the eighth store in Western New York to do so.

The union says workers at the Buffalo store have been trying to hold the election since last September but were delayed by union-busting tactics and other administrative hurdles.

A measure to amend the Michigan state constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion and reproductive freedom just moved a step closer to appearing on the state ballot for the November election. A record 750,000 signatures for the constitutional amendment were submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State by a coalition of reproductive rights organizations on July 11.

The amendment would protect reproductive health services, including miscarriage management, contraception, prenatal care, and in-vitro fertilization.

“The Michigan Reproductive Freedom for All campaign’s record-breaking signature submission reflects the urgency and grassroots energy powering this movement. A clear majority of Michiganders want to keep abortion legal,” said Nicole Wells Stallworth, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates for Michigan (PPAM).

A recent poll showed that 59% of Michigan voters support the amendment, which reflects just how deeply unpopular the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the far-right Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court is with the American public.

July 12:

A Starbucks store in southwest Calgary has voted to unionize, becoming the first in Alberta to do so.

A majority of the 32 workers at the Starbucks located at 150 Millrise Boulevard S.W. participated in a mail-in ballot and will join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

"We are proud to welcome workers from the first unionized Starbucks store in Alberta to our growing union family," said Scott Lunny, USW director for Western Canada, in a release.

Starbucks is facing a wave of union drives. As of late June, half a dozen stores in Alberta were part of that effort.

Many in the labor and immigrant rights movements believe it is high time that the ICE unit be cut off from the union movement. They have argued that the racist and anti-immigrant behavior of ICE is antithetical to the purposes of the legitimate labor movement which they see as extending full rights to all workers in the nation, including those who are undocumented. Anything short of that, the AFL-CIO itself has argued, opens the door to exploitation of all workers in the country.

The decision to let the local representing ICE workers leave the union should not have been “difficult” at all since ICE has and continues to terrorize poor, working-class, and immigrant workers, negating its right to have a place in the labor movement.

ICE agents have joined in efforts that result in the deaths of immigrant workers so their leaving the U.S. labor movement is in no way a loss to the labor movement.

July 13:

An appeals court in Lviv has banned the activities of the Marxist Workers’ Party of Ukraine, ruling in favor of the Justice Ministry’s arguments that it considers the pro-Russian formation.

With this new ban there are now sixteen political parties which have seen their activities censored and their assets requisitioned on the basis of the martial law signed by the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelenski, in response to the start of the war announced by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, last February 24.

New windfall taxes on banks and energy companies in Spain will be used to fund free train travel, boost youth scholarships and build new homes.

Short and mid-distance trains will be free between September and December, an additional €100 will be given to a million scholarship holders at schools and universities, and 12,000 homes will be built in Madrid, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Tuesday.

Colombia’s first left-wing government in 203 years since its independence is gearing up to be sworn in on August 7. The government to be headed by Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez of the progressive Historic Pact coalition, has been working steadily to build its cabinet of ministers. To date, eight cabinet members have been appointed, five of them are women.

During his election campaign, Petro announced that he would create the Ministry of Equality and Women. On Twitter, Petro said that the new ministry would have four goals: “achieve salary equality between men and women, recognize that the time of work in home valid for pension, vital income or half minimum wage to mothers who are the heads of the family, and establish women as owners of property and as subjects of development credit for entrepreneurship in the agrarian reform and in the popular economy.” After the historic victory on June 19, vice president-elect Francia Márquez declared that she would herself oversee this new ministry.

Appointments have also been confirmed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, Minister of Environment, Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Education.

More appointments are expected in the coming days. For now, let’s look at the profiles of those who will be part of this historic government.

On July 13, hundreds of Ecuadorian teachers took to the streets across the country in a new national day of mobilization in defense of equalization of teachers’ salaries at national level. The teachers demanded that the government publish the Organic Law of Intercultural Education (LOEI) with all its reforms in the Official Registry.

The teachers condemned that 45 days had passed since the equalization of salary was agreed on in the Constitutional Court’s NRO ruling, however, the law has not been published yet due to the presentation of appeals by conservative President Guillermo Lasso. They urged the national government to respect the Constitutional Court’s decision and stop inventing legal tricks to evade compliance with the law.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, July 13, King Mswati III’s police raided the home of Bongi Nkambule, a member of the Communist of Swaziland (CPS), which is banned along with all other political parties in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Nkambule, whom the police identify as a key organizer of the pro-democracy movement locally, had already been tortured in custody less than four months ago. When around 30 heavily armed policemen “invaded” the Msunduza township on the outskirts of capital Mbabane at about 6:30 in the morning, he knew he was the target.

“They were misled in the wrong direction when they asked for me. That gave me just enough time to get out of the house and make a run to the forest to escape,” Nkambule told Peoples Dispatch, speaking on phone from a hideout.

July 14:

A meeting between the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was held yesterday in Havana.

The member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba and Vice President of the Council of State, Roberto Morales Ojeda, received a delegation from the KKE, headed by Giorgos Marinos, member of the Political Bureau and MP.

Baristas at the Starbucks in Vernon won their union election 13-1 on July 14, two weeks after a new law went into effect in Connecticut preventing employers from disciplining employees who refuse to sit through mandatory anti-union meetings.

Connecticut labor leaders had fought to ban “captive audience” meetings for more than a decade. A bill was first introduced in 2005, but each year management groups lobbied against it.

This time the bill passed on an 88 to 56 vote, generally along party lines. Eight Democrats joined all but one Republican in voting against it. Rep. Tom Delnicki of South Windsor cast the lone Republican vote in favor.

Connecticut is now one of only two states with laws protecting workers from being forced to listen to anti-union speeches. Oregon is the other.

July 15:

President of Venezuela's National Assembly Jorge Rodriguez denounced the remarks and said they were "an extraordinary feat of brazenness." National Assembly deputy Pedro Infante said further that this "confession is more proof in a long list of actions and direct attacks by US imperialism against the free peoples of the world." The National Assembly voted unanimously to condemn Bolton's comments.

After some blowback in the US itself Bolton said on Friday, July 15 "This is something that some of the snowflakes on the left were kind of shocked at. But when you're looking out for America's best interests, you do what's necessary to protect those interests."

It is possible that some liberals were shocked by Bolton's remarks but other than in their forthrightness anyone with any knowledge of the US and its history of engineering coups and meddling in the affairs of countless countries would not have found what he said shocking at all.

As Radio Havana noted the "United States has a long history of carrying out coups in other countries. Still, usually, the officials of the country never openly admit their role in them.""

José Ramón Balaguer, a longtime member of Cuba’s communist leadership who as health minister sent thousands of the island’s doctors on missions to win hearts and minds in Venezuela and developing countries around the world, has died, at age 90.

An official statement read over state television, late Friday, reported the death, though no cause was given. It said his ashes would be honored at the Pantheon of Veterans in Havana before being taken to eastern Cuba, where he was born.

The Communist Party of Labor (PCT) of the Dominican Republic on Saturday expressed its condolences to party authorities, the Government and the people of Cuba over the death of Commander Jose Ramon Balaguer, who died on Friday at the age of 90.

The steering committee for the strategy on building and perfecting a rule-of-law socialist State till 2030 with a vision towards 2045 held a working session with the Party Delegations of the Vietnam Lawyers Association (VLA) and the Vietnam Bar Federation (VBF) in Hanoi on July 15 to collect feedback on the project.

Chairing the event, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, head of the committee, lauded the VLA and the VBF for their efforts in building and consolidating the policy and legal systems and ensuring human rights, thus contributing to judicial protection.

The unionization effort, first reported by The Huffington Post, prevailed on Friday, when the employees voted, 26 to 11, to join the American Guild of Variety Artists. The medievalists will join a wide array of performers represented by the guild, including the Radio City Rockettes, some circus performers, and the character actors who perform at Disneyland — including Mulan and Aladdin, for example — in California.

The employees are also seeking higher pay (Garza receives $20 per hour, and squires start at about $14 per hour), and for higher-ups to treat them more like skilled workers — trained stuntmen who perform intricate fights with lances, swords and axes, and experienced actors who do more than just read lines.

July 16:

Budweiser workers will strike for 36 hours today [Saturday 16 July 20022] in a dispute over pay.

Staff at the beer giant’s Salmesbury site will walk out in anger at a three per cent pay offer, which amounts to a real terms pay cut.

Bosses also threatened workers that they wouldn’t be able to claim back pay if the deal was not agreed by 21 July.

Budweiser workers, who have already walked out several times in June over the pay dispute, will down tools for 36 hours from Saturday 16 July at 7pm until Monday 16 July at 7am - with a further 12 hour stoppage on Tuesday 19 July.

Cuba has ramped up commercial ties with Argentina and Mexico this week as it looks toward Latin America to break out of the blockade imposed by the United States. Havana is currently hosting a trade conference with Mexican businesses to attract investment and on Tuesday Argentina formalized a wide-ranging cooperation agreement to boost the agricultural sector.

The Mexico-Cuba trade conference, hosted at the Hotel Nacional, concluded today with the signing of 12 investment agreements in renewable energy, textiles, food, information technology, and other areas. The conference was inaugurated by Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the Mexican government’s Sub-secretary for Industry and Commerce, Héctor Guerrero.

July 17:

SOLLY Mapaila was elected as the South African Communist Party’s new general secretary yesterday at its 15th National Congress in Johannesburg.

He takes over from Blade Nzimande who was elected the party’s national chair. Mr Nzimande had held the post of general secretary since 1998.

“We now have over 330,000 members which is a huge growth for the Communist Party. I am glad to step down, leaving an SACP that has a significant membership,” he said ahead of congress.

Sri Lanka:

Protesters in Sri Lanka defied tear gas, water cannon and a state of emergency to storm the prime minister’s office after the country’s embattled president fled overseas, with the crowd demanding both men step down in the face of an economic crisis.

On Thursday, July 14, the speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament said that the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be officially announced once legal formalities are concluded. The president fled the country on Wednesday to Maldives before heading to Singapore. He also appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as Acting President, leading to massive protests. The protests were attacked by police who fired tear gas on protestors marching towards the Parliament building. Ambulances and journalists too were attacked.

On Thursday, protesters also evacuated the offices of the President and Prime Minister but pledged to continue their protests till their demands were met.

The resignation comes after Rajapaksa, who came to power with an unprecedented 6.9 million votes, fled the country on July 13 following massive protests


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