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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Egypt: Morsi’s Policies to Blame for Deepening Crisis

ITUC OnLine

antiMOrsi protestEgyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s deeply partisan social and economic policies are at the root of the huge wave of popular discontent in Egypt, with more than 20 million people taking to the streets in recent days, calling for his replacement.  Seven people are known to have been killed in demonstrations and several hundred injured.  The independent trade union movement, at the forefront of the reform movement, has attacked Morsi’s record of suppression of workers’ rights, failure to address deepening poverty and social exclusion, and crony-capitalist favouritism of supporters within his Brotherhood support base.

“Egypt has not only experienced two lost years since the former dictator Mubarak was thrown out – major parts of the population are now experiencing unprecedented levels of poverty and exclusion and the promise of democratic transition and human rights is being betrayed.  President Morsi is seen by tens of millions of Egyptians as serving only the interests of his own support base, a situation which is totally unsustainable,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. Continue reading

Global Solidarity with Egyptian, Tunisian and Pakistani Workers Abused by American-based Corporation

Mondelezshareholderby Paul Garver

Mondelez International, the global corporation that is the object of the protest by American workers in this image, is not a household name. But its portfolio includes several billion-dollar brands such as Cadbury and Milka chocolate, Jacobs coffee, LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits, Tang powdered beverages and Trident gum. Mondelez International, until recently called Kraft Foods, Inc., has annual revenues of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

This recent protest at its annual shareholders’ meeting in Chicago, comprised largely of members of Local 1 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), was led by Ron Oswald, the general secretary of the IUF (International Union of Food Workers). The BCTGM was joining with food workers’ unions around the world in supporting Mondelez workers in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pakistan, whose unions were facing repression from Mondelez corporate management. Mondelez employs some 100,000 workers throughout the world. Almost all of its unionized workers are members of unions affiliated internationally to the IUF. Continue reading

Why Egypt’s Revolution is So Different

By Carl Finamore

Egypt_rev_differentEntering the third year of the revolt in Egypt, no amount of repression seems able to contain the swelling pressure exploding throughout the country the last several weeks. In fact, protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi seem to be gaining support.

The truth is, the revolution in Egypt is deeper and more profound than any of the other valiant examples of the Arab Spring.

“We are not always coming together in protests,” 28-year old unemployed accountant, Saber, told me as he arrived for a demonstration in Tahrir Square last week. “Most workers have families which they must feed, so they go to work. Other youth, like myself, have nothing to lose. Our future is past.”

As Saber explains, political sympathy among the population cannot always be measured in the size of the recurring protests. But for sure, the rebellion remains alive.

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Military Lets Muslim Brotherhood Take the Heat Understanding Egypt in Year Three

By Carl Finamore

.workers and youth fill the streets leading into Tahrir Square after Mubarak resigned

Workers and youth fill the streets leading into Tahrir Square after Mubarak resigned(Photo by Carl Finamore)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), gets most of the attention these days when discussing Egypt. Criticism flows easily and the FJP’s reputation has definitely been sullied and bloodied because of their numerous sectarian and undemocratic policies.

But, what appears most remarkable is that the military establishment has been relatively unscathed in the polarized battles that have erupted the last several months. In fact, this is not accidental. It is the result of very clever political maneuvering by the country’s military leaders.

It is certainly true that FJP leader, President Mohamed Morsi, made himself an easy target by recklessly misusing his extensive constitutional authority to appoint cronies and to issue unilateral decrees.

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Labor Unions Under Attack in Morsi’s Egypt

by Ian Hartshorn

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

While many have focused on Mohamed Morsi’s recent actions toward the Judiciary and Constituent Assembly, the Egyptian president has quietly consolidated power over institutions affecting the lives of millions of workers, namely, Egypt’s labor unions.

A day after giving himself vast new constitutional powers on November 22, Morsi amended the country’s 46-year-old trade union law. The decree represents a major shift in a fundamental Egyptian institution.  It also suggests the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing influence on a movement it has long ignored.

Targeting Trade Unions

At first blush, Morsi’s amendment may seem benign. It limits board membership in trade unions to those under sixty years of age. It also extends current union boards for an additional six months after which new elections will be held. In the interim, the Minister of Labor will be allowed to fill any vacancies.

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