International Support Enables Victory of Egyptian Union

by Paul Garver

Mondelez

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.

 

Mean Things Happening Here: the Southern Tenant Farmers Union

by Stuart Elliott

In the summer of 1934, a remarkable interracial union of tenant farmers was founded. Mean Things Happening, a 1993 PBS documentary on the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (SFTU) and depression-era organizing of the steel industry, has been much praised and is presented here.

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Obama Acts to Deny Federal Contracts to Labor Law Violators

by Mike Hall

Obama signing contractorsPresident Barack Obama on Thursday signed an executive order that will make it harder for companies with a history of labor law violations such as wage and hour and workplace safety to win federal contracts. Said Obama:

We expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts. Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to companies that violate workplace laws, they shouldn’t go to companies that violate workers’ rights.

From raising wages to workplace protections, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most.”
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New Bill Defines Labor Rights As Civil Rights

by Bruce Vail

Cong. Keith Ellison

Cong. Keith Ellison

On Wednesday, a handful of Democratic Party lawmakers introduced a bill to turn the slogan “Labor Rights are Civil Rights” into the law of the land. While admitting the proposed legislation has little chance of passage in the current anti-labor environment, supporters say they hope shifting political winds may favor the bill sometime in the future.

A civil right is any right enshrined in the Constitution or legislation, such as freedom of assembly or freedom of the press. The new measure would affirm that labor rights are equally fundamental.

Titled the “Employee Empowerment Act,” the bill is short and simple. It would add a single paragraph to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to sue employers in federal court for labor law violations, in the same way that individuals are allowed to bring lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under current law, workers must bring such complaints to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is often criticized for being very slow to act and offering wronged workers little in the way of compensation.
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Tackling the Root Causes of the Refugee Crisis at the U.S. Border

by Charlie Fanning

Tackling the Root Causes of the Refugee Crisis at the U.S. Border
For months, thousands of children and families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been turning themselves in at the southern U.S. border, fleeing widespread violence, poverty and corruption in their communities. This influx of refugees has strained the resources of front-line responders and evoked both humanitarian responses from community groups and local unions and xenophobic backlash from right-wing politicians and activists.

As lawmakers play political football with the lives of these families, the labor movement, faith groups and community and migrant rights organizations have sought to shift the focus of the debate by urging the U.S. government to craft a humanitarian response to the current crisis while taking action to address its root causes.

On Thursday, the AFL-CIO Executive Council passed a historic resolution standing up for this country’s proud tradition of welcoming those fleeing repression and violence. It urged the Obama administration to ensure all children who have survived trauma or persecution are afforded refugee status. In response to proposals from both Democrats and Republicans to roll back protections for victims of trafficking and expedite deportation proceedings, the council rejected changes to current law that would limit due process or run counter to established U.S. and international norms regarding the detainment of children and refugees.

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We Need to Fight for Equality–NAACP and Labor Together

by William Spriggs

naacpLast week, I had the great honor to receive the Benjamin L. Hooks “Keeper of the Flame” Award from the Labor Committee of the NAACP’s Board of Directors.  Both the new president, Cornell Brooks, and Lorraine Miller, who served as interim president before him, were present. I felt humbled by the honor.

This is the 105th anniversary of the NAACP. The conference was a constant reminder of the legacy of those who cut a long path in the fight for equality—not just racial equality—in America.  But last year, this year and next also mark important 50-year anniversaries of the civil rights movement. Last year was the March for Jobs and Justice, this year was the Civil Rights Act and next year is the Voting Rights Act. But we should not forget that we also are marking the anniversaries of human sacrifice to justice. Last year, it was the assassination of Medgar Evers and four young girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were murdered when the 16th Street Baptist church was bombed in Birmingham, Ala., during church services. This year, it was James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, murdered for registering African American voters in Philadelphia, Miss. Next year, it will be to remember the campaign to register voters in Alabama, the Bloody Sunday attack on marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered driving marchers for the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

It is important to note these events occurred when the NAACP was already more than 40 years in the struggle for justice. A solid reminder that this is a long struggle, and it is marked with the blood and sacrifice of many.

The labor luncheon at the NAACP convention is to rededicate the cooperation of two movements with one goal. The labor movement has a long history of struggle as well, fighting for equality and human dignity. Dignity for many begins with dignity at work.

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The truth about how tipped workers get paid

Economic Policy Institute analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains how tipped workers get paid. The minimum wage for most tipped workers is only $2.13 an hour. That means the customer is on the hook for paying the bulk of these workers’ wages.

For other videos, from the Economic Policy Institute on tipped wages here and here.

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