Hong Kong Construction Workers Rebuild Barricades

by Paul Garver

HK Construction workers

Volunteer construction workers rebuilt barricades that had been dismantled by police in Hong Kong.

The workers used a method that uses bamboo stalks similar to those used to erect sturdy scaffolding on construction sites around Asia.

bamboo

Support the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

by Paul Garver

Umbrella Movement

The Umbrella Movement in support of democracy and against growing inequality in Hong Kong persists despite savage attacks on peaceful protesters by thugs that are condoned or even in some cases organized by the police.

Responding with force to this extreme provocation, which includes right-wing thugs groping the female demonstrators, might provide a pretext for the Hong Kong government to violently crack down on the demonstrations. The protesters, mainly university and high school students supported by independent labor unions, civic groups and ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, have been able to maintain a steadfast nonviolent discipline, as illustrated in this photo from Causeway Bay.
Causeway Bay

After consultation between Hong Kong activists and some of their supporters, a consensus was reached on some measures that could be taken to support the Umbrella Movement. These are summarized in an excellent article in Labor Notes by Alexandra Bradbury at http://labornotes.org/blogs/2014/10/students-and-workers-strike-democratic-reforms-hong-kong.

Ways to Support the Hong Kong Democracy Movement

Join or organize a local rally or vigil. A number of international actions have targeted Chinese consulate offices, though key organizers inside Hong Kong have clearly decided to focus their pressure on the Hong Kong government rather than on Beijing. Another possible target: the local Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

Hold a teach-in or speak-out on your campus or at your organization. Some are also distributing yellow ribbons to show solidarity.

Get your union or organization to send a statement of solidarity. Unions around the world, including Canada’s national union federation, have issued statements of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also made a statement.

Sign support petitions, either the one sponsored by HKCTU at http://www.hkctu.org.hk/web/en/online_petition.html?id=6
or the other by the IUF at http://www.iuf.org/w/?q=node/3675.

Follow the latest developments and appeals via the Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calling-for-international-support-for-democracy-in-Hong-Kong/275123362684837?ref=hl

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions Condemns Violent Attacks on Occupy Movement Protesters

HKCTU News Release

October 3, 2014

Chief Executive CY Leung promised to appoint the Chief Secretary for Administration and the political reform trio to have a dialogue with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), yet allowed thugs to attack the protesters the very next day. This is no different from suppressing citizens who strive for democracy. On October 3, the peaceful protesters were attacked with violence, but the police did not enforce the law though witnessing the thugs hurting the civilians. This is literally giving support to brutality, murdering the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech of Hong Kong people. HKCTU is in extreme anger and hereby strongly condemns the police for tolerating violence and being negligent towards their duty. We strongly demand that the police arrest and prosecute the thugs.

Today, there were a large number of people of unknown background gathered at the Mong Kok occupy area. It is believed that over a thousand members from organizations like “Caring Hong Kong Power” and “Voice of Loving Hong Kong” screamed, cursed at and attacked the protesters at the scene. At that time very few police were there to support, nor did they stop the attacks. Many unarmed students, workers and citizens were hurt by the thugs. There was even a female student being sexually assaulted and the materials of the protesters got destroyed maliciously.

As the working class, while striving for democracy, we also believe in engaging in civil disobedience in a loving and peaceful manner. We hereby appeal to all Hong Kong citizens and the international society to:

1) support the students, workers and citizens in the Occupy Movement
2) urge CY Leung to stop using violence and tolerating violence to suppress the peaceful protesters, and to uphold the freedom of assembly and speech of Hong Kong
3) urge the police to instantly investigate the thugs who were organized to attack the protesters and give an explanation to the public
4) urge the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to withdraw the fake universal suffrage proposal, and the Hong Kong Government to re-launch the consultation on political reform and implement a genuine universal suffrage

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions includes affiliates with about 170,000 members in Hong Kong.

Which Way for the Democratic Movement in Hong Kong?

by Au Loong Yu

  • Hong Kong poster

I. The Current Situation
The general public has come out to support the students, and with their own bodies have resisted the tear gas to defeat the offensive of the regime of C.Y. Leung, the Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Hong-Kong, sparking a new generation of people’s democracy activists.

This movement has the following characteristics:
1. The students and the public have shown that they have the ability to think for themselves, to take bottom-up direct action, without relying on the leaders. It is within a context where the movement displays deep distrust of not only the Pan-Democracy parties, but also of the Trio of three leading liberal academics and clergymen who suggested the occupation a year earlier. Even the Hong-Kong Federation of Students, which was for a while the vanguard of the movement, saw its proposal to withdraw on September 28 in view of escalation of crackdown was rejected by the masses.
2. The students and young people, whose actions have led to the upsurge in the movement, are now the driving force of the movement, rather than the middle-aged and middle-class Pan-Democracy supporters whom the Trio relied on as their constituency for their occupation plan, a fact which reflects the deep distrust towards young people and working people toward the Trio.
3. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has called for a workers’ strike and there are some responses; in addition to this there is strong sympathy for the movement among working people. And the occupation of main streets also makes possible a slowdown in workplaces, which in turn allows lots of discussion among colleagues.
4. A desire for social equality has also become part of the movement. In his speech to the student boycott on September 22, student leader Alex Chow already mentioned the issue of economic inequality. A few days ago twenty-five trade unions and civil society groups also issued a joint statement not only demanding genuine universal suffrage but also regulations on working hours and a universal pension. The occupation of the last two days has also given the general public the chance to discuss their opinions, and amongst these one frequently hears discussions of the extreme inequality.
Because of this strong movement from below the C.Y. Leung government has now been forced to stop its offensive, permitting space for the movement to grow even larger. The issue now is how to take advantage of the situation fully and to seek the biggest victory.

It means that we have to overcome the movement’s weaknesses:
1. The old democracy movement’s former leaders are no longer able to lead, however the new leaderships of the new democracy movement is still in formation. This is a danger. Although spontaneity has been a great factor in advancing the movement, now—with all the sabotage taking place and a crackdown quite possible sometime in the future by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Leung government—the movement will soon require more organising and leaderships, and I use plural here deliberately.
2. Although the students’ organization is comparatively better, the general public lacks the organization and networks to support each other. This is especially so for the strike call. Although there were some early responses to the strike call, a broad strike wave has yet to happen. The HKCTU is not yet strong enough to fully implement the strike call, let alone to organize the solidarity alliance now in preparation. Strengthening movement will require great effort and also new initiatives
II. Aims and slogans
1. The Leung Chun-ying regime must surrender Civic Plaza and Tamar Garden to the people and to withdraw all police from there, so that these two places can be a focal point for the movement. If the government does not promise this then the movement should certainly not withdraw from the streets, and, if they do promise, then the decision to withdraw or stay on will depend on the circumstances and the wishes of the people.
2. The Leung Chun-ying regime and its officials must apologise.
3. The Leung Chun-ying regime must step down.
4. The National People’s Congress (NPC) resolution must be withdrawn; genuine universal suffrage and civic nominations must be implemented.
5. Regulations on working hours, a universal pension and collective bargaining rights must be implemented.
6. We must win regime change and the self-determination over political reform.

3. The Way Forward
1. Working people need more encouragement to strike. One way is to encourage each company or unit to organise and set up a small group for solidarity with the movement and to establish a strike committee. Only with this foundation, is it possible to discuss the issue seriously.
Slogan: Students and workers unite together to achieve regime change. For self-determination over political reform!
2. Adhere to nonviolence.
3. Proposing self-determination over political reform is appropriate. However if anyone proposes Hong Kong independence then we (the democratic left/progressives) can respond that we cannot agree to this, although we respect the right to express this opinion. Also it is an issue worthy of discussion later, but not for now, or it may be harmful to the movement.

Updated on the early morning of 30th September
Last night when I went to the scene, I found that the movement had again expanded in scale and it was very moving. However this also increases the risk of direct intervention by the CCP—although this does not necessarily mean dispatching the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from the outset. Nevertheless it is necessary to avoid provocations and excesses. In the case of escalation of the crackdown from tear gas to shooting—or even worse the mobilization of the PLA—there is no way we can fight that, given the present level of organisation.Therefore we should retreat from the streets when this moment comes, but keep the strike going – no one can force working people to work normally even with guns. In addition to this we will need a deepening of the non-cooperation movement in all areas.

________________________________________
* Au Loong Yu is a Hong Kong activist. He is currently editor of China Labor Net. This essay is reposted from New Politics with the permission of the author.

Hong Kong Unions Strike for Democracy

by Paul Garver

swire
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) – the only independent union in China – has called for workers to strike in support of the democracy movement as mass civil disobedience actions come under heavy police attack. The Swire Beverages (Coca-Cola) union and the HKCTU unions of school teachers and dockers are striking and will be joined by other member unions.

Tensions have been building in Hong Kong since the August 31 government announcement that candidates for the position of Chief Executive would have to be vetted and approved by a pro-business, pro-Beijing committee.

The protests, originally organized by the students’ federation and the Occupy Central coalition, have drawn increasing numbers of supporters. The mainland government has harshly condemned the protestors’ demands and the “illegal” protests.

On September 28, the HKCTU declared “we cannot let the students fight alone”, and called for workers to strike in support of 4 demands: the immediate release of all the arrested, an end to the suppression of peaceful assembly, replacing the “fake universal suffrage” formula with the genuine political reform workers have been demanding, and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

The HKCTU has been the backbone of the democracy movement, before and following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Their courageous action deserves the support of trade unions everywhere.

Hong Kong poster

The HKCTU website has a petition (http://www.hkctu.org.hk/web/en/online_petition.html?id=6) you can sign on-line to support the Hong Kong unions in their struggle for democracy.

 

 

 

Egyptian Union Organizes with Global Support

by Paul Garver

Mondelez

Update:

Following the reinstatement of all 5 executive members of the Cadbury Alexandria Union under their former conditions, elections were held on August 29 for the executive council of the union.

The leaders were once again elected as the principal officers of the union and supporters of the leadership fill all 9 positions on the executive.

160 members attended the meeting where the elections took place including 48 members from the other Mondelez factory in Alexandria at Burj el Arab. 3 of the elected executive members work at this factory where membership continues to grow.

Background
In July 2012, more than two years ago, the Egyptian division of Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods International) suspended five members of the executive committee of a union in Alexandria that dared to declare itself independent. The same American-owned and managed global food company also disciplined union activists at Mondelez plants in Tunisia and Pakistan for similar reasons.

In response the IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide) organized a global “Screamdelez” campaign joined by its member unions on every continent. From Pakistan and Tunisia, through North America and Western Europe to Eastern Europe, Mondelez workers and their unions demonstrated to support their Egyptian counterparts. Hundreds of supporters around the world sent protest messages through the LabourStart international website to Irene Rosenthal, Mondelez CEO.

As a result of this campaign, Mondelez agreed to negotiate with the IUF, and following a meeting in Alexandria on July 9th the five executive board members were reinstated to their jobs with full retroactive back pay and benefits. Elections for the new term of the union executive committee at the plant will take place shortly. All five former union executive committee members will be entitled to stand.

In a last effort to avoid reinstating the union officers, local management argued:”But we don’t know how to reinstate them since no company has ever had to do that in Egypt before!” But the Egyptian result may become a precedent for Mondelez workers in other countries. The IUF and Mondelez International jointly stated that:

“This brings the long-running labour conflict in Alexandria to an end. Both local parties have committed to seek to resolve future challenges in a good-faith and constructive manner and, beyond Egypt, Mondelez International and the IUF have agreed “to discuss the lessons learnt from this conflict.”

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One lesson for all trade unionists is the power of global worker solidarity, in winning campaigns that can even transcend sharp national conflicts.  During the Screamdelez campaign delegates at the IUF EECA regional meeting, held in Kyiv {Kiev} on November 4-5, 2013 concluded their discussion on trade union development by a symbolic action in support of the struggling Mondelez workers in Egypt, Pakistan and world-wide. The participants included union leaders and activists from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Global Worker Solidarity Gets Real

 

by Paul Garver

Fast Food for 15 Labor activists have long called for international solidarity to confront global corporations, but sentimental and rhetorical appeals to the workers of the world to unite failed to produce lasting results throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, recent global organizing campaigns in fast food, which employs millions worldwide, and telecommunications show promise.

Fast Food

The international coordinated actions of fast-food workers on May 15, 2014, took place in 158 U.S. cities and 93 other cities across 36 countries. More than 10,000 workers and their supporters participated. This represented an unprecedented level of global labor solidarity.

Organizing fast-food workers on a global scale poses enormous challenges. There are relatively few workers in any outlet, and they are mostly precariously employed by third parties other than the global corporations. Labor law in the United States and most other countries is ill-adapted to facilitate worker representation and collective bargaining for such an atomized work force. Fast-food unions have gained small toeholds in only a few European countries that have collective bargaining by sector. Only in New Zealand has a determined union membership been able to conduct repeated, if brief, strikes to raise wages.

After the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began putting significant resources into community-based organizations and worker centers, fast-food worker organizing has taken off into a powerful movement for raising the minimum wage for all workers.

Global coordination to raise the minimum wage by raising public consciousness rather than through sector or workplace organizing is done through the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF). The IUF, using funding from its own member unions, including the SEIU, held a global meeting of 80 fast-food workers and union representatives from 26 countries in New York in the week prior to the May 15 actions. Many of the foreign delegates remained in the United States to help organize the protest actions in U.S. cities. IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald notes that “The Fight for 15” is “just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast-food worker movement.”

Telecommunications Organizing

Another major global organizing campaign is talking place within Deutsche Telecom (DT), parent of T-Mobile U.S., which the Communication Workers of America (CWA) has been trying to organize. The large union ver.di, which represents DT workers in Germany, has been supporting the CWA organizing drive, trying to compel DT to apply higher worker rights’ standards to its operations in the United States. In May 2014, ver.di sponsored a thousand-strong rally at DT’s Berlin headquarters that included hundreds of international trade unionists in Berlin for an International Trade Union Confederation World Congress, CWA President Larry Cohen. and fired T-Mobile U.S. union activist Josh Coleman. Because of ver.di’s tireless media campaign, Coleman has become well known in Germany as a symbol of DT’s anti-union conduct in the United States.

This was not a one-off event. Ver.di members on the DT works council have visited several Southern U.S. cities where CWA is trying to organize at T-Mobile, and the two unions have formed a joint organization called T-Mobile Workers United (TU) to encourage contacts between German and U.S. workers, including an online discussion forum.

To be effective, global labor solidarity must be mutual and long-term, built around the common interests of workers in particular sectors and transnational companies. Global campaigns like these are moving in the direction of deeper practical organization and strategic planning.

Paul Garver is a retired organizer for the IUF and for SEIU and has been active in DSA for more than three decades. This article also appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Democratic Left.

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