Day Laborers and the Struggle for Bread:India and the US.

by Roger Sikes


Shelter built by organized daily wagers

The United Workers Congress (UWC) met with members of  the independent construction workers union called Nirman Mazdoor Sanghatana (NMS) in Mumbai, India this past week.  This union organizes in the informal sector, largely among workers that we would call “day laborers” in the United States, while in India they are referred to as “daily wagers.”

 Day laborers gather in small to medium sized groups in informal yet visible sites in a city or town (for example in front of a gas station, a public street corner, in-front of a shopping center) in search of work ranging from roofing, small construction projects, painting, loading and unloading goods and any tasks that the homeowner, business owner or small contractor may need.

In Atlanta, GA one might find day laborers on Ponce de Leon standing in-front of the shopping center that includes Home Depot and Verizon Wireless stores….

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General Strike Rolls Through India

by Roger Sikes

In the United States the general strike has been all but a myth for decades…  In India, there is a 1 day general strike at least once a year.  However, some Indian trade unionists have felt the yearly general strike has become more of a predictable tradition than an ineffective action that leverages economic power to meet the demands of Indian workers.  This years general strike is a shift from those of recent history for a number of reasons:

1) All of the Indian Trade Unions (from left to right on the political spectrum) have come together to participate.
2) This will be a two day strike.
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Global Labour Movement Moves to Support Maruti Workers – Online!

by Derek Blackadder
At the request of the Maruti workers’ union and the International Metalworkers Federation a global mobilization of solidarity for the striking workers in India is taking place online.

Workers around the world are being organized to send protest e-mails to Maruti-Suziki’s Managing Director demanding that the company immediately cease violating basic labour rights at its factory in Haryana.  This effort is only the second such involving an Indian dispute.  In just a few days the campaign has already generated thousands of messages from supporters in 105 countries.

The campaign is being mounted using the services of LabourStart, the global labour movement’s online news and campaigns website.
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Indian Workers Battle Nestlé

205 workers at Nestlé India’s Samalkha factory in Haryana state went on strike 4-5 July to protest the suspension of their union chairman Bijender Singh Gahlan for organizing non-disruptive protest actions including wearing black armbands and boycotting voluntary social functions. The union was demanding wage adjustments to compensate for the soaring cost of foods, including Nestlé’s own products.

The Nestlé Employee union at the Moga factory in Punjab state organized solidarity for the Samalkha union by boycotting the canteen and demonstrating outside the factory gates. Coordinated action among local unions at Nestlé India is a relatively new phenomenon.

Like other global food and drink companies, Nestlé is looking to rapid growth in its already profitable operations in India, China, Russia and other large emerging markets to offset stagnating markets and profit margins in Western Europe, Japan and the USA. Nestlé workers organizing and fighting for their rights in emerging markets threaten the company’s global strategy.This is the context in which Nestlé has systematically tried to quash union rights.

Update: On 21 July the striking workers at Nestlé Samalkha suspended their strike for six weeks pending an investigation by the State Labor Commissioner into the suspension of the union chairman, and the results of a tripartite inquiry into their claim for wage adjusments for inflation. The company agreed to pay wages for the last eight days of the strike.

How to Support Hunger Strike of Indian Migrant Workers

Five migrant workers from India who are fighting against their exploitation under the H2B program (see May 8 article “Gandhi Joins with Martin Luther King“) have begun a hunger strike.

They are demanding:

  • Continued presence in the U.S without the threat of deportation
  • The right to participate in a criminal trafficking investigation into their former employer, Northrop Grumman subcontractor Signal International, and the US and Indian recruiters who cheated them.
  • Congressional hearings into abuses of the guest worker visa program in the US Gulf Coast
  • Concrete action from the Indian government to protect future Indian workers.

The American News Project has made a great video on this struggle.
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Gandhi Joins with Martin Luther King: Jobs with Justice National Conference

Here is one ongoing story of struggle by workers against exploitative corporate globalization. It is part of the rich tapestry presented at the Jobs with Justice National Conference in Providence, which assembled several hundred activists from forty local coalitions that campaign for workers’ rights. These delegates, diverse in age, race and culture, shared their organizing experiences and successes, of perseverance in the face of adversity and corporate and political villany. This struggle by Indian workers against their exploitation by the U.S. government’s H2B “guest worker” program is continuing. Continue reading