Remaking Egypt Beyond Tahrir Square

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Tens of thousands filled Tahrir Square on April 1, emphatically demonstrating the utter failure of prolonged attempts by Egypt’s military government to demobilize and demoralize the pro-democracy movement.

Fifteen thousand people, according to the state news agency MENA, already attending the Friday Muslim prayers in Tahrir Square, were joined later in the afternoon by twice as many protesters jamming the central Cairo plaza according to Agence France Presse.

In what was called “The Friday for Rescuing the Revolution,” protestors demanded bringing to trial deposed President Hosni Mubarak and his cronies, ending the official state of emergency, and releasing all political prisoners.

In fact, important sections of the population continue to call for serious and fundamental democratic reforms, going far beyond the transparently shallow changes to Mubarak’s discredited constitution recently suggested by the top generals.

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Egypt: Independent Unions Protest Anti-Strike Law

by Paul Garver

The Egyptian cabinet has issued a draft law that would criminalize strikes, protests and sit-ins by imposing prison sentences and fines on anyone who calls for such actions.

Ths draft law has already been approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces oppose strikes because they operate many profit-making businesses, including food processing industries, often acquired by misappropriating billions of dollars in U.S.military aid.

The newly organized Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), describing the decree as “a grave and worrisome development” intended to stifle the democratic revolution and block the creation of a genuine civil society in Egypt, is organizing protest demonstrations.  The discredited official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) affiliated to the ruling government party supports the legislation.  Sharon Burrow, General Secretary of  the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), states:

“Working people do not need discredited and unrepresentative remnants of the old regime to talk on their behalf. Like workers everywhere, they are perfectly capable of organising their own trade unions, but they can only do this effectively if the authorities refrain from the anti-democratic habits of the past.”

The independent Egyptian labor unions sent messages of support and even pizzas to the demonstrators in Wisconsin.  We should reciprocate by supporting worker rights in Egypt in any way we can.  It is vitally important that the democratic revolution progress in Egypt, and defending the right to strike and protest is an absolute prerequisite for further advance.

AFL-CIO Honors Independent Egyptian workers movement

Kamal Abu 'Eita (left), translator, and Kamal Abbas (right). Photo courtesy of Lacy MacAuley

by Stuart Elliott

“We just want what is owed to us!” is one of the many labor rights chants that increasingly fill the streets of Cairo and other cities in Egypt. This year workers are protesting like never before in Egypt, striking, staging sit-ins, and protesting in the streets, despite police beatings. Besides demanding the basics like fair pay and a 40-hour workweek, workers are pounding the pavement to demand the right to strike and the right to protest.

In an awards ceremony on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, the AFL-CIO  gave the prestigious George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to the Egyptian workers’ movement. The ceremony was at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC with by Arlene Holt-Baker, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO,  presenting the award.  The award was accepted by labor leaders Kamal Abbas, General Coordinator of the Center for Trade Union and Worker Services in Egypt, and Kamal Abu ‘Eita, President of the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers. This award was granted in recognition of the extraordinary courage and perseverance the workers have displayed in the face of substantial state repression.

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