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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #50 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Swaziland, Serbia, Canada, Greece, Cuba, Bolivia, the UK and elsewhere.

There are also a number of updates related to the General Strike in India that began March 28 and a section regarding the Starbucks union wave in the USA.

Workers marching in India on the first day of a two-day General Strike, March 28 -- Image via Twitter

March 21:

Hundreds of Chevron workers in California went on strike Monday after the company and the United Steelworkers union failed to reach a contract agreement.

More than 500 workers at a refinery producing gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and lubricating oils in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Richmond began striking at 12.01am, the union said in an email. Workers recently voted down a contract offer from Chevron, and the company refused to return to the bargaining table.

March 22:

A joint forum of central trade unions has given a call for a nationwide strike on March 28 and 29, to protest against government policies affecting workers, farmers, and people.

The Joint Platform of central trade unions held a meeting in Delhi on March 22, 2022, to take stock of the preparations in various states and sectors for the proposed two-day all India strike on 28-29 March 2022 against "the anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people and anti-national policies" of the central government

March 23:

All India Unorganised Workers and Employees Congress on Wednesday extended support to the nationwide strike on March 28 and 29 by a joint forum of central trade unions to protest the government policies affecting workers, farmers, and people.

Power sector employees across the country will observe a strike on March 28 and 29 in protest against the privatisation policies of the central government, a workers' union leader said on Wednesday.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) held on Wednesday, All India Power Engineers Federation President Shailendra Dubey, a constituent of the organization, said here.

Thousands of teachers and other school workers in Sacramento walked off the job Wednesday as the California capital became the second big U.S. school district this month to see a work stoppage over pay and staffing shortages as a teachers strike in Minneapolis entered its third week.

The disputes in Sacramento and Minneapolis, where teachers walked out March 8, come as school districts across the country deal with fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and limited resources.

The executive of the Toronto area Eglinton-Lawrence Ontario New Democratic Party (ONDP) riding association has issued a statement unanimously opposing the decision of the party not to allow their President, Sam Kaplun to run for the party's nomination in the upcoming provincial election.

March 24:

On Thursday, March 24, left-wing sections in Serbia paid tributes to the victims of NATO bombings in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Thursday marked the 23rd anniversary of the start of the 78-days-long NATO bombing campaign in erstwhile Yugoslavia between March 24 to June 10, 1999, which caused the death of around 2,000 people, along with massive destruction of property and infrastructure.

Representatives from various political parties including the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NKPJ), League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ), Party of Radical Left (PRL), Socialist Party of Serbia, and the Serbian Left laid wreaths at the monument of Eternal Fire in Belgrade and denounced the NATO invasion of Yugoslavia.

A joint platform of central trade unions (CTUs) and various sectoral independent trade unions have called for a two-day strike on 28th and 29th March 2022 to protest against the anti-people economic and anti-worker labour policies of the Union government. All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) has also decided to join the strike, a senior office-bearer says.

In a statement, CH Venkatachalam, general secretary of the bank union, says, "AIBEA has decided to support this call and join this strike to focus on demands in the banking sector. AIBEA unions in public sector banks (PSBs), private banks, foreign banks, co-operative banks and regional rural banks will join in the strike."

Bolivia’s state-owned glass factory (ENVIBOL) is now exporting wine bottles to Argentina, Latin America’s leading wine producer. The government revealed that the first shipment was sent today and they will provide Argentina with 12 million wine bottles over the course of this year. This factory was created by Evo Morales’ government but closed by the neoliberal coup regime in 2019 and re-opened by the government of Luis Arce in 2020.

Fatima Pacheco, Director for Development of State Industries (SEDEM) told press on Thursday, “We managed to close this deal in February this year, there are already around three million bottles being packaged to send to Argentina, and we are going to reach 12 million bottles in this process”.

On the evening of Thursday 24/3/22, thousands of people took part in the mass anti-war rally that shook the port of Piraeus, the major port of the country. The demonstrators chanted slogans, fired off red flares, and sent a militant message that “the warships of the imperialists are not wanted” and “Piraeus is a port of the peoples and not a launching pad of the imperialists”, which were heard as far as the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle”, part of the NATO armada and berthed at Faliro bay.

The rally was organized by the Labour Centre of Piraeus, the Greek Committee for International Détente and Peace (EEDYE), the Federation of Greek Women (OGE), the Struggle Committee against the Greece–USA Agreement on Military Bases, student associations, and other mass organizations.

Metalworkers, seamen, dock workers, builders, factory workers, young men and women, and women participating in the OGE associations, marched and held banners making clear their decision to escalate the struggle against imperialist war, for the disengagement of the country from the murderous plans of the USA, NATO, the EU, and Russia, clarifying that “the labour movement will not choose a camp between thieves”. KKE MPs Diamanto Manolakou and Maria Komninaka also attended the rally.

March 25:

The organization Friends of Swazi Freedom has launched a new campaign to draw international awareness and attention to the situation and ongoing repression in Swaziland, Africa's last remaining absolute monarchy.

Hundreds of striking Sibanye-Stillwater (SSWJ.J) workers blocked a major highway outside Johannesburg on Friday to press their demands for higher wages, and union leaders said they would not back down despite the gold miner's no work, no pay policy.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike since March 9, demanding an increase of 1,000 rand ($68.77) per month over the next three years.

A group of Washington state tulip and daffodil farm workers have gone on strike to demand that the Washington Bulb Co. improve wages and health and safety protocols. The strike comes just ahead of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, one of the area’s main tourist attractions that starts April 1. Washington Bulb Company is owned by RoozenGaarde Flowers and Bulbs, one of the largest employers in the Skagit Valley north of Seattle.

After nearly two weeks on strike, the bargaining team representing roughly 160 LifeLabs couriers and mailroom clerks in the GTA has reached a tentative agreement with the employer.

If a majority of the 160 OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5119 members vote to accept the tentative agreement, the strike will be over. The vote will take place electronically on Saturday, March 26, and the workers will soon be sent the voting information.

March 26:

Protests have taken place at ports over P&O Ferries' sacking of 800 workers in favour of lower-paid replacements.

Unions rallied at Dover, Hull and Liverpool, chanting slogans such as "seize the ship". Protests caused disruptions, and vehicles in Hull were at one stage turned away.

A large anti-imperialist protest organized by the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NKPJ), the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) took place on Saturday 26 March in Belgrade.

The protest was held in front of the famous building of the Ministry of Defense (General Staff) which was heavily damaged by NATO bombs in 1999, on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of NATO's criminal intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Friends from the Serbian-Cuban Friendship Association and the League of Communists of Serbia also attended the gathering.

March 27:

Close to 420 unionized workers at the Molson Coors plant in Longueuil, Que., declared a general unlimited strike on Friday after turning down the company's wage offer.

It follows a strike vote last Sunday, when 99 per cent of workers at an assembly of 320 voted for strike action.

The union said the wage increase being offered by the employer is below inflation. The company is also trying to impose obligatory overtime, more work on the weekend, and a new layoff system that would not take seniority into account, the union said.

Jose Cortes, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, will officially be on the ballot with a full voter guide statement on June 7. Cortes, who grew up in El Cajon, is running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in California’s new 51st Congressional District race for U.S. House of Representatives.

March 28:

Central Trade Unions on Monday began a two-day nationwide strike to protest against the government's alleged wrong policies that are affecting farmers, workers and people.

Talking to PTI Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said, "The two-day nationwide strike by the joint forum of central trade unions has begun this morning."

Millions of workers began a nationwide two-day strike across India on Monday to express their anger at the government’s economic policies and press their demands for improved rights for industrial workers, employees and farmers.

About a dozen labor unions that organized the strike want the government to provide universal social security coverage for workers in the vast unorganized sector, hike the minimum wage under a flagship employment guarantee program and stop the privatization of public-sector banks.

The strikers are also demanding that the government halt plans to sell state assets.

University staff at 27 universities begin a five day walkout today over cuts to pensions and deteriorating pay and conditions.

The UK wide action started last week when staff at 40 universities downed tools for five days. This is the third round of strike action this academic year. Staff recently took up to 10 days of strike action over three weeks, from Monday 14 February to Wednesday 2 March, and previously went on strike for three days in December 2021.

Orange County Grocery Workers at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions may soon go on strike.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, which represents roughly 23,000 grocery and other retail workers in Orange County and parts of Los Angeles County, is one of seven Southern California branches that voted to authorize union leadership to call for a strike if necessary, according to a press release from the union.

“California’s essential grocery workers made their voices heard with an overwhelming vote to stand together against the repeated and egregious unfair labor practices that Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions have engaged in,” reads a statement from the seven union chapters.

US Starbucks Union wave:

In a hugely symbolic union win, workers at a Seattle location of Starbucks have voted unanimously to unionize. The result was announced by the National Labor Relations Board on March 22. Seattle is the hometown of the coffee chain giant.

Workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores in 27 states have filed union petitions for elections. In response, the company has launched a relentless anti-union effort.

One OU transfer student and Starbucks employee said she worked with coworkers at the Highway 9 and Classen Boulevard location in Norman to publish a letter expressing intent to unionize and calling for a greater say in company operations.

According to the letter, signed by six named employees and others who prefer to remain anonymous, employees are writing in response to recent union efforts across the country, which include more than 100 locations in over 19 states. The movement was kickstarted by workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, who organized around concerns about insufficient pay and safety practices.

A group of downtown Columbus Starbucks workers are joining a nationwide push to unionize across the country.

The Starbucks located at 88 East Broad Street is the first in the city to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union representation election, according to union organizers.

The union campaign at coffee behemoth Starbucks is spreading like wildfire among its predominantly young workforce. Moreover, despite management using tried and tested “union avoidance” tactics, it seems clear that the company’s aggressive campaign is not panning out as Starbucks HQ had hoped, and this could be bad news for anti-union corporations more broadly.



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