Hong Kong Labor Supports Ongoing Struggle for Democracy

Ed. note: Although students and young people formed the tenacious shock troops of the Umbrella Movement for democracy in Hong Kong, they received strong support from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU). This press statement from the HKCTU commits the labor confederation to the ongoing struggle.

The new era of Democratic Movement begins

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HKCTU leaders and members who were arrested at the 75-day Admiralty occupation on Dec 11th 2014 while they stayed with other protesters to resist the police to clean up the occupation zone, were all released on Dec 12th 2014. Ending of the occupation was just a beginning of a new era of the movement for true democracy.

It was reported that 247 protesters were arrested on Dec 11 and 7 of them from HKCTU: General Secretary Lee Cheuk Yan, Chief Executive Mung Siu Tat, Bar Bender Workers Union Chairperson Wong Wai Man, Community Care and Nursing Workers Union Ar Dick, Van Delivery Workers Unions Simpson, Organizing Secretary Fredrik Fan and a volunteer Wu Sui Ming. They all were released in 12 hours without any charges. After the release, the two leaders of HKCTU made the following comments.

Brother Mung Siu Tat reflected that, “I have been fighting for labour rights over 20 years in my life time seeing how the workers were exploited by bosses and unfair systems. If we would accept the ‘fake universal suffrage’ proposal from the National People’s Congress, the policy making will still be business leaning, as the big corporates are the few but powerful nominators. It implies universal labour rights, such as standard working hours, right to collective bargaining, universal pension fund, would continue to be “blocked” by the functional constituencies. When the roads are occupied, bailiff and the police would conduct the clearance, yet, what happen if our democratic rights and labour rights are “blocked”? If we don’t join force, who can clear up the road to democracy and labour rights? We have to open our roads by our peoples’ power.”

Brother Lee Cheuk Yan said that, “the authorities can use police to clean up the protest site but they cannot kill the spirit and courage of people for democracy. It is going to be tough in future, we have to prepare that the government will use rules and orders as tools for suppressing the social activists and civil society after this battle. At the same time, we see hopes from the active political participation and strong leaderships of youngsters in this movement. HKCTU will try to reach out to the young activists among working class so as to build up an emerging and powerful trade union movement in Hong Kong”.

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There were a lot of solidarity actions locally and internationally to call for immediate release of the protesters. HKCTU is very thankful to IUF for launching the online petition to show international solidarity to HK democratic struggles. HKCTU will continue the struggle with all working class, students and citizens in Hong Kong to fight for universal suffrage of Chief Executive and Legislative Council in 2017 and 2018.

Madison Wisc. Teachers Vote to Re-certify Their Union

Pat Schneider, The Capital Times

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Governor Walker upset by unions.

Members of Madison Teachers, Inc. have voted overwhelmingly to recertify their collective bargaining units, according to vote totals released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Teachers, with 2,981 eligible union members, voted 88 percent to recertify their unit in unofficial tallies,  pending a period in which objections can be filed.

Total membership and percentage support for other MTI collective bargaining units were:

  • Educational assistants, 719 members, 76 percent in favor of recertification;
  • Substitute teachers, 484 members, 74 percent in favor of recertification;
  • Support staff, 234 members, 77 percent in favor of recertification;
  • Security staff, 27 members, 81 percent in favor of recertification.

Annual recertification of public workers unions is required by Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation curbing the collective bargaining rights of public workers. The law required 51 percent of eligible workers to vote to recertify the union in balloting that ended Tuesday. Continue reading

Delta Airlines Fires Worker for $15 hour protest

 

Delta Airlines has decided to fire a veteran baggage handler Kip Hedges for speaking out in support of low wage workers at the Minneapolis- St.Paul Airport.

Stand with Fast Food Workers – Dec 4

Stand with fast food, home care and airport workers fighting for $15/hr

seiuNo matter who you are or where you’re from, if you work hard, you should be able to make enough to live a good life and provide a better one for your kids. That’s the key to getting our economy and our families back on track – and it’s worth fighting for.

That’s why fast food, home care and airport workers are coming together to fight for $15 an hour and the right to stick together in a union.

Thousands of fast food workers in more than 150 cities across the country have voted to go on strike on December 4. Home care and airport workers will be on the picket lines alongside them in solidarity.

reposted from SEIU.org

Hotel Housekeepers Join Global Campaign

by Paul Garver

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In Lahore, Pakistan, 55 housekeepers make up 600 rooms at the five star Pearl Continental Hotel. Only 17 of the 55 housekeepers are permanent. Only one of the 17 permanent workers is a women and another 12 women are employed on a precarious basis.

During their shift housekeepers are only allowed a 30 minute “free lunch”. It is the only break in 10 hours. While working 10 hour shifts alone every day, handling loaded trolleys weighing in excess of 50 kilograms, women housekeepers face a range of serious health, safety and security issues. Even after working for 5 to 10 years the legal minimum wage of PKR 12,000 (USD 117) per month is the maximum wage for precarious women housekeepers.

On learning about the IUF’s Global Housekeeping Campaign for housekeepers’ dignity, a woman housekeeper said: “After learning about the IUF Global Campaign for Housekeepers I now believe as housekeepers we will be able to live a better and decent life too.”

Hidden within magnificent luxury hotels as well as more modest establishments throughout the world,
housekeepers are the foundation of the hospitality business. Yet for all the skill and hard work they bring to guests and employers, their contribution is scandalously undervalued. Housekeepers are now challenging their invisible status, speaking out against abusive working conditions and calling on the global hotel industry to recognize their contribution and their rights. From December 3-10, hotel housekeepers in more than 25 countries around the world are holding a Global Week of Action to highlight their situation and to demand a safe, secure working environment from a global industry which rests on their efforts. “The campaign puts the reality of the sector up front, on the table”, tells Kelly from Argentina, who has
been working as a housekeeper for 18 years.

Housekeepers perform exhausting daily tasks for low pay and little or no employment
security. The vast majority are women, often migrants. Their vulnerability exposes
them to a multitude of health, safety and security risks: risks to their bodies from
repetitive, heavy tasks, sexual abuse, exploitation by unscrupulous employers who
often fiercely resist union organization, outsourcing schemes that shield employers
from responsibility and further degrade working conditions and insufficient or totally
lacking legal and social security. Few guests would imagine that housekeepers have
one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and sickness of any occupational
group. “I am already stressed before I start working, since I don’t know how many
rooms and beds are expected to be cleaned”, reports Sofie from Sweden, 29 years
old. I never know if I have time to take my break because I can only get to it all if I
skip my break.”

The week of activities, organized through the IUF’s ‘Make up my workplace!’
campaign for healthy, safe and dignified working conditions for housekeepers will
culminate in an international press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December
12th, where images from the week will be displayed and housekeepers will tell their
stories of work and struggle.

“The campaign has made me aware that the pain I feel in my body is not a personal matter but a workplace issue”, says a South African housekeeper. Their hopes and their determination to fight for change are echoed by housekeepers around the world. “The hotel companies want to deliver five-star service with two star jobs. At my hotel, we all got together and joined the union and that has made all the difference. Room attendants need to stand together around the world so that, together, we can fulfil our dreams for ourselves and our families”, says Josie, 37, from Canada.

Housekeepers at American five-star hotels face the same challenges. Housekeepers at the Harvard University-owned Doubletree Suites hotel recently went on strike for union recognition and the right to bargain for better conditions.

Campaign for Fair Scheduling

by David Bensman

A great cultural transformation is driving demands for workers’ control of job schedules.

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Though it would be hard to see it in the midterm election results, we live in the opening phase of a great countermovement against neoliberalism. The evidence is everywhere you look, and not only in the United States and Latin America. The stunning success of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century can only be understood in this context.

Throughout America, there are campaigns for raising the minimum wage and for setting a $15 floor. (On November 4, four red states approved ballot initiatives to up the minimum wage, and San Franciscans voted to follow Seattle’s lead by setting the floor at $15 per hour.) There are also accelerating campaigns for fair workweeks, a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and for granting home-care attendants the employment protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Fast Food workers, taxi drivers, port truckers, Wal-Mart employees, car washers, Fed Ex freight truck drivers and many health-care workers are all organizing unions.

The campaigns by worker centers to combat wage theft and end misclassification of so-called independent contractors has been joined by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service

The slow-growing international effort to govern global supply chains has produced a comprehensive Rana Plaza Accord, binding leading apparel retailers (though not Wal-Mart or The Gap) to enforceable commitments to pay professional engineers to inspect factory buildings in Bangladesh for structural integrity and fire safety. The campaigns by worker centers to combat wage theft and end misclassification of so-called independent contractors has been joined by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as 15 state governments. Fast food workers’ uprisings have prompted the National Labor Relations Board to consider making franchisors share responsibility for the working conditions of the employees of their franchisees. The midterm elections also advanced the movement for paid sick leave, which won approval by 60 percent of Massachusetts voters, and was approved by voters in two New Jersey municipalities (bringing the total to six), as well as by Oakland residents.

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Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts.

It’s a global phenomenon. In France, it was expressed by the sans papiersmovement, which brought progressives into alliance with immigrant groups in a struggle for civil rights. In Greece, Spain, Belgium, and Slovenia, protests against austerity, deregulation and privatization are challenging the E.U.’s turn from social democracy into neoliberalism. In India, female agricultural workers are organizing to assert rights denied by governments and male heads of households. In Brazil, there is the landless people’s movement. Elsewhere in Latin America, the emergence of indigenous people’s movements against deforestation, dam construction and environmentally devastating mining projects reflects signal a thoroughgoing rejection of neoliberalism. In China, workers’ protests against low pay and excessive overtime, which are beginning to develop into campaigns for free association and collective bargaining, are emblematic not only of growing anger at Communist Party rule, but also at the soulless capitalist road the party has embarked on. On the world stage, the effort of the BRICs nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to organize a development bank to serve as an alternative to the World Bank demonstrates the determination of nations outside the sphere of Western domination to build institutions supporting a different path to development.

In addition to these progressive tendencies, right-wing populist movements also contain elements that reject neoliberalism in the name of individual freedom and/or communitarian values, as Ralph Nader has recently pointed out in Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance for Dismantling the Corporate State. Although there are many facets of the Tea Party, the anti-immigration movement, the French National Party and Golden Dawn that are poisonous, there are also tendencies calling for reining in Wall Street banks and opposing trade deals that weaken national sovereignty in favor of corporate domination. Whether or not progressive forces can find common ground with these elements in right-wing populism will help determine our future.
Continue reading

McDonald’s Korea Fires Worker for Supporting Global Fast Food Protest

by Paul Garver

 MCD kOREA

Gahyun Lee was dismissed from her job at a McDonald’s outlet in Yeokgok, Gyeonggi Province on September 15 following her visit to Los Angeles earlier that month to support the national action by US fast food workers.

Management had previously warned her about union activity in May – citing a phone call from the head office – after she denounced wage and scheduling manipulation and unsafe workplace practices at a May 15 Seoul rally in support of global fast food workers. Management refused to provide her with an explanation of why her contract was terminated, instead telling her to reapply for the job. Her application was rejected.

The Arbeit Workers’ Union (which organizes precarious workers) is demanding her reinstatement and publicizing her case. You can support them by sending a message to McDonald’s Korea corporate management calling on the company to reinstate Gahyun Lee, recognize union rights and representation and enter into good faith talks with the union over unfair practices.  Go to:

http://www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/campaigns/show_campaign.cgi?c=922

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