by Paul Garver
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.
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:
The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue. Demonstrators have set a deadline of midnight tonight for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive to resign. German revolutionary magazine Marx21 interviewed Sophia Chan from Left21, Hong Kong about the background to and prospects for the mass protests taking place. The interview in available in German here.
1. When did the protests start and why? What was the turning that meant people started to demonstrate?
The protest was actually a result of a long battle for democracy. When the British handed Hong Kong back over to China in 1997, the Chinese government promised both in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the mini constitution of Hong Kong (the Basic Law) that a democratic system eventually would be implemented in Hong Kong. After decades of delay and making excuses, in August this year the National People’s Congress of the PRC declared that the so-called democracy…
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by Paul Garver
Triad thugs, perhaps hired by the Hong Kong government and certainly condoned by the police, are unleashing a wave of savage attacks against peaceful supporters of the Hong Kong protests at their support centers in several districts of Hong Kong. This tactic, reminiscent of the worst abuses of the Egyptian government two years ago, destroys the very basis of law, civil liberties and democracy. such lawless brutality has not been seen in Hong Kong in many decades.
Follow minute by minute developments at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calling-for-international-support-for-democracy-in-Hong-Kong/275123362684837?ref=hl.
We will update with suggestions about how we can respond.
by Paul Garver
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.
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.
by Rand Wilson and Peter Olney
[Ed. Note: The unusual and lengthy strike at Market Basket, a regional supermarket chain centered in Eastern Massachusetts, garnered regional and even national media attention. The object of the strike, led by local mangers, supported by workers at the store and by warehouse and trucking workers who refused to deliver groceries, and by a strong consumer boycott, was to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas, a fired former CEO who promised to retain the chain's popular paternalistic culture. This article is reposted from the excellent Stansbury Forum (stansburyforum.com) with the permission of the authors.]
After a weekend of last minute haggling and prolonged negotiations, a settlement of the Market Basket dispute was announced Wednesday night bringing to a close one of the most dramatic and inspiring labor struggles in the United States in many a year. The settlement was not immediately about wages or benefits or job security language. These employees don’t even have a union! The settlement was about who would be their boss and CEO. In a highly unusual management-led action, they paralyzed the company’s 71 stores and promoted a devastating consumer boycott to get previously fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas back and they won.
Most of the 25,000 workers from part-time checkers to big shot regional managers will be returning to work immediately. In fact, during most of the dispute, most of the checkers and in-store personnel worked, converting their stores and parking lots into protest platforms where the few remaining customers were engaged in intense discussions about the MB dispute. Where once the walls of a store were adorned with promotional ads, now they were decked-out with signs extolling the virtues of “Arthur T.” and their desire to maintain his business model over his cousin Arthur S. The strike was a strategic one by a combination of key workers in trucking and warehousing and top and middle managers whose industrial actions prevented any perishables from reaching the stores. Market Basket became nothing but a big dry goods chain.
Threats of firing and numerous “drop dead” days for employees to return to work came and went, virtually ignored by the workforce that was out. The power of a united and strategic workforce acting forcefully with broad consumer support rocked the whole of Eastern Massachusetts and its 30 stores in New Hampshire and Maine.
Would the workers have been better off in a union? Yes, of course. There is no substitute for the power and voice that collective bargaining provides for workers. Yet, the great irony here is that if Market Basket workers had been in a union, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them striking to restore their fired boss and defeat the Wall Street business model of his cousin Arthur S. A no strike clause and the narrow post WW II vision of our labor unions would surely have prevented that.
We should also point out that warehouse and trucking is usually with the Teamsters in unionized grocery stores. Often the decision to respect UFCW picket lines is not always forthcoming or impossible because of contract language.
An NLRB charge was filed by several employees arguing that the company’s threats against them constituted a violation of their Section 7 rights to protest and redress their “wages, hours and working conditions.” If a settlement hadn’t been reached, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative law judge would have had to rule on whether the discharge of the CEO constituted a “unilateral change in working conditions!” The employees certainly saw that it did — and put their own lives on the line because they saw their own conditions inextricably bound up with who was their CEO.
Below are some lessons from this extraordinary struggle that we draw for the rest of the labor movement:
- Not all workers pack an equal punch– Strategic workers in trucking and warehousing are crucial to interrupting the flow of goods, particularly perishables. Current labor laws (especially in the private sector) exclude many of the most strategic workers making meaningful strike activity much harder.
● Management rights are workers’ rights– Unfortunately not since the UAW’s Walter Reuther has the U.S. labor movement sought any real say over operating and management decisions. Instead, we’ve surrendered to the narrow “management rights” clause written into virtually every union contract. Yet, these decisions, as the MB workers demonstrated, are crucial to the livelihood of workers.
● A real strike stops production – Campaigns at Wal-Mart and in fast food have called the exit of a handful of workers from stores and fast food outlets “strikes.” But most have failed to stop production. Market Basket workers (management and labor) engaged in a true “strategic strike” and the camera shots of empty shelves and empty stores were a compelling image that needed no virtual enhancement or Facebook ‘likes’ to be real.
● Community support is key – The depth of support in the massive boycott where customers taped their receipts from Stop and Shop, Whole Foods and Hannaford’s to the windows of Market Basket was an essential part of the victory. For many customers this was a deep hardship, but the passion and energy of the workers and Market Basket’s low prices underlay consumer’s commitment to stay away until victory.
Union or “not-yet-union,” one fundamental lesson is that there are no shortcuts to deep organizing at the point of production. Labor strategists and organizers who are impatient with that process and believe that social media and corporate leverage can substitute for the basics are doomed to failure.
Following this monumental struggle, Market Basket and its workers will never be the same. To reach a settlement, Arthur T. enlisted the notorious private equity firm, BlackRock to buy one third of the company. As a result, the Market Basket culture and its manager’s paternalistic practices may significantly change. Meanwhile, Market Basket’s workers expectations have never been higher and the sense of their power – even without the managers’ support – can’t be denied. The vast majority of workers are part-time and low paid. The UFCW is actively reaching out to enlist support. Stay tuned because there is undoubtedly much more to come!
Rand Wilson has worked as a union organizer and labor communicator for more than twenty five years and is currently an organizer with SEIU Local 888 in Boston. Wilson was the founding director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.
Peter Olney is retired Organizing Director of the ILWU. He has been a labor organizer for 40 years in Massachusetts and California.
The Republican victories in the Michigan government in 2010 and 2012 are now achieving their intended effect. The Associated Press reports that labor, pro- business groups, and the Koch brothers among others are engaged in an intense battle for teachers to continue to support the Michigan Education Association ( NEA) or to leave their union. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/25/michigan-teacher-union-drop-out_n_5710393.html
Many of the 112,000 teachers in the Michigan Education Association can now leave the union and stop paying fees under the law that took effect last year. Other major unions, covered by multi-year contracts, won’t reach this opt-out point until 2015 or later.
Economic power at the top is used to produce political results in elections. The rich get richer while the middle stagnates and the poor get screwed. The banks and institutions that brought us the global economic crisis got billions in governmental relief and no prosecutions for the frauds they committed while homeowners, pensioners, and working people were robbed of their life savings and now working people are losing their unions. This is the planned, deliberate result of neoliberalism at work. Continue reading