Fast Food Workers Organize Globally

by Paul Garver

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

The international coordinated actions of fast food workers on May 15th represent a new and unprecedented level of global labor solidarity.

Activists have long called for international labor solidarity to confront global corporations. The global fast food industry presents an excellent example of an industry dominated by a few giant corporations like McDonalds whose chief executives receive 1200 times higher pay than their fast food workers. The industry takes in over $200 billion annually, while employing tens of millions of low paid workers in hundreds of countries.

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Striking is not a crime – defend imprisoned Chinese labor rights defenders

by IUF

HongKong1Wu Guijun, a migrant worker employed for 9 years making furniture at the Diweixin Product Factory in Shenzhen (southern China), has been detained since May 23 and faces criminal prosecution for defending the rights of his co-workers. Since his arrest Wu has been denied contact with his family.  SEND A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES DEMANDING HIS RELEASE!

Workers at the Hong Kong-owned factory sought negotiations earlier this year in response to concerns about production cutbacks and apparent preparations for relocation to another site in the Chinese interior. Seven workers were elected to represent them, including Wu, but the employer refused to disclose any information and rejected negotiations. In response, the workers downed tools on May 7 and petitioned the local government to intervene.  On May 23, 300 workers were besieged by the police while marching to the City Government; more than 20 workers were arrested and detained, including Wu Guijun. All were eventually released except for Wu. According to his lawyer, Wu now faces criminal prosecution for “assembling a crowd to disturb social order”.

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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

Two More Banana Workers Murdered in Colombia as Free Trade Agreement is Debated in DC

by Paul Garver

The AFL-CIO remains strongly opposed to the proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement “until Colombia takes sustained, meaningful, and measurable action to change the culture of violence that plagues those who work to better their lives.” It is too soon to know if the promises made in the Labor Action Plan (a side agreement not part of the proposed trade treaty) will rise above the level of good intentions to benefit Colombia’s workers.

In an August 4 letter, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka stated:

“Congress should not act prematurely on the first signs of good intentions, but should rather wait for clear and convincing evidence over a sustained period of time that the facts on the ground have changed before acting on the Colombia Trade Agreement.”

The assassination of two more banana workers’ union members underscored the weakness of the “Labor Action Plan” by which the government of Colombia has promised to end the decades-long violent assault on the labor movement. On 31st July two banana workers’ union members were murdered in the municipality of Apartadó, Wilmar Serna, banana worker and workers committee member, and Eduardo Fabian Zúñiga Vásquez, also a banana worker. Their union SINTRAINAGRO is one of the few remaining private sector unions in Colombia, and the only one with a national bargaining agreement.

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Pakistan Coke Workers Win Union Recognition and Permanent Jobs

Coke Union Presidents Ghulam Rasool, Khalid Pervez, Khaista Rehman

by Paul Garver

After a long and bittler struggle 187 workers at the Coke bottling plant in Multan, Pakistan, have won recognition of their People’s Employees’ Union.   Their precarious jobs have been converted into permanent ones, directly employed by Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Ltd (a joint venture of the Coca-Cola Company and its Turkish-based bottling partner Coca-Cola Icecek).

The agreement was reached after 19 hours of negotiations at the Geneva office of the IUF (International Union of Foodworkers), and was formally signed by the IUF, the Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Icecek following endorsement by the three IUF-affiliated Coca-Cola Workers Unions in Pakistan.

The Global Alliance of Coca-Cola Workers coordinated by the IUF has made the struggle for union rights and for secure permanent employment its global priorities.

 

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McJobs

by Eric Lee

McJobs — we all know what those are.

One online source defines a McJob as “a low-paying, low-prestige job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement”.

McDonald’s was never very happy about the use of this term.

In fact, the company bought the domain name “mcjobs.com” just to make sure that no one could use it.

But they forget to acquire “mcjobs.org” — and the global union federation for food workers, the IUF, together with LabourStart, bought the name and today are pleased to announce the public launch of McJobs.org, the website for McDonald’s workers around the world.

If you work in McDonald’s, or know anyone who does, or are just curious, please do check it out:

http://www.mcjobs.org

Eric Lee is founder of LabourStart

Focus on Organizing at AFL-CIO Convention

by Paul Garver

August09Workers
The second day’s program focused on organizing, both organizing new members into unions and political organizing around the Employee Free Choice Act and elections. In welcome relief from long-winded speeches from the dais, many of the presenters were workers who were fighting for union recognition or first contracts. Local and state labor council leaders described organizing rallies and events promoting the EFCA. Activists from Working America presented their electoral canvassing work that had provided key margins of victory for Democratic candidates last November.

I am selecting one of these organizing successes because it was based on hard work at the grassroots level coupled with good strategic targeting that utilized international solidarity. The BCTGM successfully organized workers at the Dannon yogurt plants in Minster, Ohio and West Jordan, Utah. Here following are excerpts from the presentation by BCTGM Secretary-Treasurer Dave Durkee.
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Buyouts, Bread Sticks, Biscotti – and Challenges for the Obama Administration

stellasign

by the IUF (International Union of Food Workers)

The IUF web-site posted an article that situates the courageous strike of BCTGM Local 50 against the private equity owners of Stella D’Oro in a global context.

The 136 workers on strike for 9 months at the Stella D’Oro bakery at West 237th Street in the Bronx are a microcosm of working America. They are as diverse as the neighborhood – African-American, Latino, “ethnic” whites, even African. A majority are women, many of them mothers and grandmothers. Most of them worked at Stella d’Oro for years, even decades, before, as they tell it, being forced out on strike. Seven months into a bitter strike, they’ll all tell you “We’re going to stay out as long as it takes to get a fair contract.”

Stella D’Oro is also a microcosm of what’s been happening in corporate America for the past two decades – and what urgently needs to be fixed.
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The importance of understanding private equity

Stuart Elliott

Our friends at Dissent have made available on-line a very important article from their Winter 2008 issue–Stephen F. Diamond’s “Private Equity and the Public Good.” (It’s a reminder that subscribers get to read many articles before they’re on-line. I’m looking forward to getting the Spring issue in the mailbox to read “Show Me the Money”: Labor and the Bottom Line of National Health Insurance by Marie Gottschalk and A Southern Strategy For Unions by John Lalas. So subscribe, already)

Diamond argues that the emergence of private equity firms as an important form of capitalist organization marks “the arrival of a potentially new stage in the history of capitalism.”

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SEIU California Cleaners Show Solidarity with Nestlé Russia Workers’ Struggle

SEIU Cleaners at Nestle USA headquarters
In the midst of a difficult contract campaign for the janitors servicing commercial buildings in California (including Nestlé USA headquarters in Glendale), members of SEIU Local 1877 showed their solidarity with the union struggle at the Nestlé factory in Perm, Russia by distributing leaflets and displaying banners on April 16.

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