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.

 

A New President Will Not Stabilize Egypt

by Carl Finamore

Tahrir Square Graffiti (Photo by Carl Finamore, Jan, 2013)

Tahrir Square Graffiti (Photo by Carl Finamore, Jan, 2013)

Egypt remains in a heightened state of political turmoil.

Since the mass popular revolt in Feb. 2011 that toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, there have been four governments, three votes on revised constitutions, two parliamentary elections and one presidential election with another scheduled for May 26-27, 2014.

This makes seven referendum or elections since Mubarak.

These ineffectual democratic pretenses amounted to little more than reshuffling the deck of cards with the military holding all the aces. Mubarak castaways worked along with some new faces, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, who were willing to accept the old ways as long as they got a piece of the action.

As a result, most of these transparently phony electoral efforts were challenged or boycotted by the best of the youth and worker activists.
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Unions, the First and Last Hope for Egyptian Revolution

by Wade Rathke

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

New Orleans   When more than 20 organizers from labor unions and community organizations as part of the Organizers’ Forum delegation visited Egypt in 2011 after the revolution several years ago scores of meetings with political parties, activists, community and labor organizers, proved the one clear reality-tested conclusion that cut through all of the hype was that this was no Facebook revolution whatsoever. If there was one clear, unheralded hero in the drama whose relentless pressure broke the Mubarak government it was the labor movement. Their continuing strikes kept the pressure on the government no matter how much repression and press coverage occurred in the Square. The events leading to Tahir Square and the surge of hope for change in Egypt that many called the Arab Spring were the classic case of something that seemed like a victory having a thousand fathers while a defeat is a bastard child.

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Understanding Egypt Today: Military Rule Deja Vu

by Carl Finamore

Hated Security  Police

Hated Security Police

By conducting a military coup on July 3, 2013 the Egyptian military acted to diffuse the near-insurrectionary outpouring of millions during June 30 Tamarod (Rebel) protests demanding an end to the discredited Muslim Brotherhood government of president Muhammad Morsi.

It is now five months since the generals “kidnapped” the revolution, as Fatma Ramadan, Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) executive board member it, and confusion, disorientation and even demoralization is the dividend.

The mass movement to achieve real democratic reforms has definitely been sidetracked by military-annointed, plodding government bureaucrats, many from the Mubarak-era, continuously emphasizing work, discipline and order – for others, not themselves.

Polls indicate most Egyptians still cannot identify the names of these shadowy civilian apparatchiks, including neither the president nor the prime minister. Continue reading

Egyptians Who Protest Worker Rights Abuses Are Labeled “Terrorists”

 

Workers of Ghazl el Mahalla (Misr Spinning and Weaving Co.) in El Mahalla al Kubra industrial city part of the Tamarod Campaign on 30 June protests.

Workers of Ghazl el Mahalla (Misr Spinning and Weaving Co.) in El Mahalla al Kubra industrial city part of the Tamarod Campaign on 30 June protests.

Amid the political and social chaos that reigns in Egypt today, a semblance of normality persists: People go to work; they buy food; they try to feed their families.  And, as in the past, Egyptians employers, with the active support of the Egyptian government, flagrantly violate fundamental workers rights. Workers are fired for trying to organize unions and they are not paid what they are owed, including legally mandated bonuses, profit-sharing and health care benefits or proper safety equipment.

There is a familiar political dimension to these events. Elements in the police and military are accusing workers who protest employer abuses of being “terrorists” — which in today’s Egypt means members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). In a recent New York Times article, two Egyptian media sources claimed that the workers striking at the Suez Steel company were infiltrated by MB activists attempting to “destabilize” the country.

This is an accusation supported neither by the facts, nor the history of blue collar unions.

Furthermore, not once did a local source, not Suez city officials quoted on the Suez municipal website nor the government newspaper, Al-Ahram, nor the English-language on-line Egypt Independent nor  the Center for Trade Union and Worker Services (CTUWS) mention a link between the workers at the Suez Steel company and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Apparently, it is once again fashionable — as it was during the Mubarak era — to claim that any protester for any cause is a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Continue reading

Egyptian Military Seeks Support for Counter Revolution

By Carl Finamore

"Morsi is Mubarak with a Beard" (not a literal translation) Finamore photo in Cairo 2013

“Morsi is Mubarak with a Beard” (not a literal translation) Finamore photo in Cairo 2013

Egypt is again making headlines and the army is again stepping from behind the curtains to take center stage. The military-appointed civilian figures are merely second-rate stand ins. Polls indicate that most Egyptians don’t even recognize the names of the president or the prime minister.

This is the second time in as many years that the generals have acted.

In both cases, it was unparalleled, insurrectionary-like mobilizations prompting them to strategically head off boundless anger against two discredited rulers in a row, Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi, from growing into deeper condemnations of the whole rotten system.

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ITUC Statement on Egypt

 

International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

16 August 2013: The ITUC is deeply shocked at the events of 14 August on Rabaa Al’Adaouia and Nahda squares in Cairo and the continuing violence which has seen some 20 churches and dozens of government buildings burnt. More than 600 people were killed including 43 police, and hundreds more injured, when security forces moved on camps of supporters of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Reports from Egypt indicate that at least 11 supporters of the interim authorities had been kidnapped, tortured and killed inside the camps since late June.

“This appalling cycle of violence must stop immediately, and the call of the UN Security Council for maximum restraint must be heeded by all. The only way forward for Egypt is through dialogue with all democratic forces and the absolute rejection of violence. The alternative is the risk of prolonged and bloody civil conflict,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The Egyptian people have the right to live in peace, and the authorities have an obligation to protect all people from violence in full compliance with the rule of law.”

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