Unions Organize General Strike against Spanish State Repression in Catalonia

 by Cipi Fraioli

catalonia strike
Road blockade in Catalonia
Workers in Catalonia have launched a general strike today in response to the brutal police repression following Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum.

Originally called by a group of alternative unions including the anarcho-syndicalist CNT, who represent the majority of linesman at the Port of Barcelona, the revolutionary syndicalist CGT and Catalan unions the IAC and the COS, the strike is now also being supported by the dockworkers’ Coordinadora as well as mainstream trade unions the CCOO and UGT.

They are also being joined by a wide range of student groups, social centres and Catalan nationalist organisations such as La Taula per la Democràcia, an organism created just before the referéndum, the ANC (Catalan National Assembly), FAPAC (the Federation of Catalan Neighbourhood Assemblies) and UFEC (Union of Catalan Sports Associations).

Neighbourhood defense committees which have been developing alongside the repression of the referendum vote met last night in squares around Catalonia to prepare for the strike. Many neighbourhoods held protests outside hotels at Calella, Pineda de Mar and Figueres to protest the hospitality given to National Police and Civil Guard, successfully forcing the hotels to end their stay.

Demonstrations involving tens of thousands have broken out in the streets this morning. Central Barcelona has an ongoing march of thousands led by the ‘bomberos’ firefighters who were brutally attacked by police last week when they tried to protect demonstrators. Around Barcelona different groups have blocked roads and motorways both with throngs of people and barricades of tires. Tractors have driven into town from local villages to block roundabouts.

Strikes are taking place on Barcelona public transport, and ports at Barcelona and Tarragona are completely shut down. The University of Barcelona has been in occupation since September 22nd with most schools closed for the day. Flying pickets along demonstration routes have been calling on shops to strike for the day.

In a statement, the CNT said: “the unity of Spain has always been a rallying flag for the far right here. Therefore, any calls for self-determination from any part of it, as is the case now in Catalonia, spark a vicious response. We are already seeing an increase in the presence of fascist groups in many towns across Spain and the conservative government is taking an increasingly authoritarian stance, trampling on many fundamental freedoms. These are ominous signs of what might lie ahead for us. Repression is only likely to worsen on many fronts, maybe even involving the military.

“Make no mistake, while we firmly oppose repression from an increasingly authoritarian state and their fascist allies, we are in no way supportive of the nationalist agenda.”

The statement also explained that CNT activists have “been busy making things uncomfortable for the nationalists, bringing economic and social issues to the fore, reminding people that the Catalan government was very keen to introduce social cuts only a few years ago.

“This should not be a fight between nations, but between classes. Between an oppressive regime and its fascist allies (as much a part of the “people” as anyone else) and those of us who stand for freedom and rebellious dignity.

We expect repression to increase during the following weeks and days and we will use our weapon of choice, the general strike, to make it difficult for police to move around, get supplies and do their work in general.

The statement concludes: “As revolutionaries, we don’t believe we can just remain idle, while the police attack the people in the streets and fascist gangs roam our towns freely.”

On Sunday, what should have been a peaceful referendum turned into a carnage. Ten thousand police officers from the Guardia Civil, sent by the central government in Madrid, surged against the peaceful voters, trying to thwart the referendum, by shutting down polling stations and seizing ballot boxes.

Violence erupted quickly, and the Sunday turned bloody. More than 800 hundred people were hurt. Everyone from young children to pensioners were victims of an unnecessary display of police brutality. Female protestors have also complained of police sexually assaulting them during arrests.

All in all, police actions in Catalonia have felt to many like a revival of the ghost of Franco still alive in the Spanish right. At least 884 people were injured, after the police savagely attacked the people who were trying to cast their votes. Police officers resorted to rubber bullets (forbidden in Catalonia since 2013), truncheons and even tossed people away from polling booths. The gruesome images of police officers dragging by the hair several women, using tear gas on voters and brutally clashing their batons on even elder people, are available in the internet for everyone to see the strength that fascism has nowadays in Europe.

President Mariano Rajoy, of the right-wing Partido Popular, refuses to recognise the referendum, even declaring that “there has been no independence referendum”, before paying tribute to the Spanish Police, that responded with “firmness and serenity”.

The referendum bill was turned into law by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on September 6, after being voted in the Catalan Parliament, with 72 votes in favour and 11 abstentions, in the 135-seat chamber in Barcelona. This law stated that 48 hours after the referendum, a yes vote would be followed by the declaration of independence, but was quickly suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court the day after, with the Spanish government claiming the vote illegal and unconstitutional.

The Catalan government declared that the referendum had been approved by 90% of the 2.3 million people who voted out of a total voter pool of 5,343,358. This means that the turnout was of 42%, with 58% abstaining.

The EU still remains largely silent, and hasn’t condemned the police violence in Spain. This represents the tension in the EU as a whole, where national independence campaigns in Scotland, Flanders, Veneto and elsewhere in other EU member states as well as the Basque Country in Spain. Catalonia is a major player in the Spanish economy and growth, accounting for around 19 percent of its GDP.

Reposted from libcom.org

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Braceros Organize After a Worker Dies

image3_2
By David Bacon
The American Prospect, 8/8/17
https://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2017/08/braceros-strike-after-one-worker-dies.html
http://prospect.org/

Picking blueberries on a Washington State farm. Risking deportation, Washington state farmworkers protest dangerous conditions in the fields
A farmworker’s death in the broiling fields of Washington state has prompted his fellow braceros to put their livelihoods in jeopardy by going on strike, joining a union, being discharged – and risking deportation.

Honesto Silva Ibarra died in Harborview hospital in Seattle on Sunday night, August 6. Silva, a married father of three, was a guest worker – in Spanish, a “contratado” – brought to the United States under the H2-A visa program, to work in the fields.

Miguel Angel Ramirez Salazar, another contratado, says Silva went to his supervisor at Sarbanand Farms last week, complaining that he was sick and couldn’t work. “They said if he didn’t keep working he’d be fired for ‘abandoning work.’ But after a while he couldn’t work at all.”
Continue reading

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading

38,000 ATT Workers Strike

ATT_Strike_Smaller_DSA-StandsWithWorkersUpdate: The Strike is over for now.

CWA union members have been working closely with DSA on organizing efforts across the country. 38,000 CWA folks at AT&T have been working without a contract. This has gone on far too long. Now AT&T workers in 36 states and Washington, DC are on strike.

 

DSA’s national Steering Committee endorses this strike. DSA local groups and individual members are joining striking workers at picket lines across the country. Click here to RSVP for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Downloadable DSA solidarity signs are available here and here.

Members who can’t join a picket line are encouraged to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and tell him to settle now.

UPDATE: DirecTV employees are joining the potential strike as well. Now 40,000 workers are ready to stand up for their livelihoods — and their dignity. Continue reading

Tell ATT: Respect the Workers!

att-west-rallyOur friends at the Communication Workers of America need you. CWA union members have been working closely with DSA on organizing efforts across the country. Now 38,000 CWA folks at AT&T are fighting for their livelihoods. DSA’s Steering Committee endorses their actions, and we want you to know about it. You can help workers right now by emailing AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. And thank you!

In solidarity,  Maria Svart, DSA National Director
CWA member Cindi Chesters:
I may be on strike Friday along with 38,000 of my coworkers at AT&T if we haven’t won a fair union contract by then. I’m a single parent of four and there is a lot on the line for me. My kids are the reason I’m fighting so hard and why I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to make sure they have a good life. We hope to avoid having to strike, but we may have to make that sacrifice to make sure our livelihoods are secure.

Please stand with us. Click here to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson now and demand that he settle a union contract that protects good jobs.

I work at an AT&T retail store, but the company wants to keep closing stores and instead send work to third-party dealers where workers make super low-wages and don’t have the union protections we have. Meanwhile, my co-workers at AT&T call centers worry that their jobs will be sent overseas.

CEO Stephenson made $28.4 million last year, while he cut our commissions, which meant I took home less pay than the year before. This fight is about making sure working people can make a decent living in this country. We are up against unaccountable corporations that are working us harder for less in order to pad their bottom line. Continue reading

Support AT&T Workers

by CWA member Cindi Chesters

att-west-rally

I may be on strike Friday along with 38,000 of my coworkers at AT&T if we haven’t won a fair union contract by then. I’m a single parent of four and there is a lot on the line for me. My kids are the reason I’m fighting so hard and why I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to make sure they have a good life. We hope to avoid having to strike, but we may have to make that sacrifice to make sure our livelihoods are secure.

Please stand with us. Click here to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson now and demand that he settle a union contract that protects good jobs.

I work at an AT&T retail store, but the company wants to keep closing stores and instead send work to third-party dealers where workers make super low-wages and don’t have the union protections we have. Meanwhile, my co-workers at AT&T call centers worry that their jobs will be sent overseas.

CEO Stephenson made $28.4 million last year, while he cut our commissions, which meant I took home less pay than the year before. This fight is about making sure working people can make a decent living in this country. We are up against unaccountable corporations that are working us harder for less in order to pad their bottom line.

As the only income for a family of five, my budget is tight as it is, and the money I may lose if I go on strike isn’t something I take lightly. That’s why I’ve been preparing, saving money, stocking up on groceries, and making a plan.

Please take action and send a message to the CEO that you support workers fighting for their livelihoods.

There is too much on the table for us to sit back and let the company take advantage of us anymore. We want to be treated like human beings.

If we strike, we’re following in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters at Verizon who last year struck for 49 days and won big improvements for themselves, their families, and sent a message that corporate giants can be beat if working people stick together.

Thank you for your support. If we strike, we’ll be back in touch with more information about how you can support us on a picket line near you. Until then, I hope you’ll email CEO Stephenson to make sure he knows his customers and members of the community have our back.

Thank you for listening to my story,

Cindi Chesters
AT&T Sales Support Representative, Shelton, CT

http://www.dsausa.org/

Which Way to the Barricades?

An interesting and long piece from Jacobin by Stephen Fraser and Nelson Lichtenstein. Excerpt:

Surprisingly, these recent calls for strike come primarily from middle-class activists, usually without the faintest connection to the labor movement. They summon people to deploy a weapon linked, since Peterloo, to an oppressed working class in revolt while decrying what they understand as white working-class backlash. The very incongruous timing and social location of these calls makes them odd, awkward, and naive, but also socially and culturally imaginative.

After all, what remains of the organized labor movement has avoided strikes like the plague for a long time; unions are simply too weak to conduct them. As late as 1975, each year witnessed more than four hundred strikes, involving more than a thousand workers. Today, ten or fifteen work stoppages occur, mostly for defensive reasons — to preserve pensions, wages, or health insurance against an aggressive employer.

Strikes have cropped up among unorganized, low-wage workers, sometimes assisted by outside unions. The Fight for $15 movement has generated a good deal of social energy and achieved some legislative success on the state and local level. But as important and even heroic as such struggles are, these strikes-cum-referendum-campaigns hardly disturb the country’s economic machinery.

Read the entire piecehttps://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/mass-general-strike-history-may-day-barricades