Striking Haitian garment workers attacked by riot police, make appeals for solidarity

Low-paid garment workers in Haiti have launched a strike movement calling for increased wages. In response, the bosses have called in riot police, who’ve tried to break the workers’ resistance with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The Haitian workers’ movement Batay Ouvriye suggest a few ways that people can help:

1. Email factory owners, government & regulatory agencies to let them know you stand with Haitian garment workers.

Let’s flood the email inboxes of the following:

Alain Villard – Owner of Palm Apparel and SISA
Jean-Paul Faubert – Vice President of Palm Apparel
Charles Henri Baker – Owner of One World Apparel & politician
Jay Jihoon Kim – H&H Textiles
George Sassine – President of ADIH & owner of AG Textiles, SA
Camille Chalmers – Director of the Haitian Platform for an Alternative Development, or PAPDA
Claudine Francois – Country Program Manager, Better Work Haiti
Textile Sector Mediation Bureau

Copy and paste the below email, or write your own, and send it to these contacts.

Please be sure to copy Batay Ouvriye on the email.

Email Contacts:

Jay@yjapp.com; alain.villard@palmapparel.com; mapaid@agacorp.com; jpfaubert@palmapparelgroup.com; chbaker@pbapparel.com; gsassine@gbgroup.com; chalmerscamille6@gmail.com; bureaumediationsecteurtextile@gmail.com;
francois@betterwork.org

cc: batayouvriye@hotmail.com

Subject: STOP ATTACKING GARMENT WORKERS

To Whom it May Concern:

I am emailing in support of Haitian garment workers in Port Au Prince, Carrefour, Ounaminthe and Caracol.

I am outraged by the use of brutal and deadly force against workers!

I stand with the workers who are bravely striking and demonstrating for their rights.

Factory owners and the brands they produce for make millions, sometimes billions of dollars in profit by exploiting these workers. They are within their rights to organize and demand decent pay to house, feed, clothe and educate themselves.

I insist on the following:

  1. Pay workers 800 Gourdes minimum wage & provide social services.
  2. Respect workers’ right to organize.
  3. Stop the repression against workers!

In solidarity with Haitian garment workers,

Your Name
City, State, or Country

#RRNsolidarity
#RightToOrganize
#800Gourds

2. Make a financial contribution to support this fight. Your contributions help pay for printing leaflets, gas for organizers to travel between factories, strike funds to help feed workers when they are not working, and more.

Your contribution of $50, or any amount, will help workers continue their fight.

3.  Spread the word on social media & follow the RRN.

Twitter:  @RRNsolidarity

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RapidResponseNetwork/

Newsletter/updates sign up:  http://goo.gl/Me35SH

Continue reading

Posted in Repression, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Construction conflicts: Crossrail wildcat, and Frank Morris reinstated again

A few pieces of news from rank-and-file workers fighting back in the construction industry:

A wildcat strike broke out at Crossrail this week, with electricians stopping work at Canning Town, Holborn and Mile End in a long-running dispute over bonus payments and union recognition.

According to a post in the Blacklist Support Group:

“UPDATE on spreading action on Crossrail

100s of workers on Crossrail downed tools today and cabined up at Canning Town, Holborn and Mile End to defend their elected reps following victimization on a site run by the blacklisting firm Skanska.

3 Unite stewards & a safety rep have been elected on 3 Crossrail shafts. The employment agency ON-SITE refuses to recognise them and workers claim they have been victimised by reducing their hours.

The main contractor is SRW – a joint venture between Skanska, Rashleigh, Weatherfoil. Scandinavia construction giant Skanska are one of the companies who admitted their involvement in the notorious Consulting Association blacklist in the High Court last year.

SRW issued letter to every worker withholding their wages and threatening them unless they return to work tomorrow and complete a 10 hour shift.

Blacklisting is still going strong in construction but the rank & file are fighting back. Workers rights is a General Election issue. What has Theresa May got to say about blacklisting, agency workers rights or the victimization of union members?”

In response, Skanska sent out threatening letters telling workers that they won’t be allowed back unless they commit to not taking part in any further unofficial action:

There’s an emergency meeting for all M&E workers planned for 6:30 pm on May 30th at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square in London to discuss the dispute.

Meanwhile, over at Chase Farm hospital, Frank Morris, a blacklisted engineer who was previously sacked at Crossrail and then reinstated after a bitter dispute, was sacked again, and has now been reinstated once again after spending six weeks fighting his dismissal.

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Manchester antifascists statement on the attack

From Manchester Antifascists:

SMASH ISIS – SUPPORT YPG

As anti fascists we do not hesitate to condemn last nights attack which was undoubtedly ordered or inspired by the Salafi Fascists of ISIS, Al Qaeda or similar.

The people of Manchester will not be divided by any of those who wish to paint such attacks as simply a matter of ‘muslims vs non muslims’: the Salafi Fascists themselves, the British Far Right, the Right Wing corporate media, and the imperialist politicians who wish to capitalise on our fears of Salafi terrorism yet support politically and financially those Gulf regimes who are the economic and ideological mentors of the Salafi groups wreaking terror across the world from Syria to Manchester.

These forces wish to see us opposed to one another, yet we are friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues. We are no mugs in Manchester. We will stand together.

We must root out those behind such divisive ideology and expose them, and stop their poison decisively.

Whilst we mourn our losses here, we salute the Mancunian anti-fascist volunteers currently fighting ISIS as part of the International Freedom Battalion, part of the People’s Defense Units YPG.

You can donate to the victims and their families here.

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“Appropriate action will be taken”: LSE bosses try to menace striking cleaners

Management at the London School of Economics have written to striking cleaners, claiming that some of them had breached the government’s code of practice on picketing, asking them not to strike in future, and warning that “we are in the process of gathering evidence to identify those involved and thereafter appropriate action will be taken”. You can tell they really like saying “appropriate action will be taken”, since they use the phrase twice in one short letter. This is a clear attempt to intimidate workers.

If you’re in the London area, you can help back these workers in defying their employers’ attempted intimidation by going along to the next picket on Wednesday morning, the film showing about their campaign on Friday, and/or their party on Saturday night. No matter where you live, you can also help out by emailing LSE bosses at j.black@lse.ac.uk, a.blair1@lse.ac.uk, andrew.young@lse.ac.uk and telling them to wind their necks in, contributing to the cleaners’ strike fund, and/or signing this petition telling management to back down.

Posted in Repression, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

LSE cleaners’ strike continues, and other upcoming events…

In workplace news, the United Voices of the World union have a lot going on this week: the 5th day of the LSE cleaners strike is on Wednesday 24th, there’s the Feminist Fightback filmshowing about their struggles on Friday 26th, and they have a joint summer fiesta with the IWGB on the 27th.

Other ongoing workplace disputes include Fujitsu, where action has temporarily been suspended while the workers discuss a new offer from management, and Argos, where warehouse workers are on a two-week continuous strike at Basildon, Bridgwater, Burton-on-Trent, Heywood and Lutterworth.

Meanwhile, Leeds Plan C will be hosting a showing of the Italian autonomist classic “The Working Class Goes To Heaven” on Monday 22nd at the Brunswick pub, the Angry Workers of the World will be having their first “transatlantic conversations” session with Amiri Barksdale of Insurgent Notes discussing the historical development of race and class relations in the US at Mayday Rooms on the 26th, and Liverpool antifascists are asking people to join them in stopping the EDL on June 3rd.

Posted in Protests, Racism, Strikes, The right, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Socialism in three cantons? A view from Washington

In the ongoing discussions of the social experiment taking place in Rojava, the economic aspect often tends to get neglected. You can read a lot about the military aspect, the war against ISIS, co-operation with US forces and so on, and a lot about the political ideologies, the new decision-making structures that have been set up and all the rest of it; but the questions of everyday life, what people have to do to get food to eat and houses to live in, and how this compares to what it was like before, or how it differs from the rest of the world, tend to attract less attention.

As a partial corrective to that, I’d recommend reading this short report from the Washington Institute. The source is a US-based institute that aims to “advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them”, so the author’s clearly not likely to be very sympathetic to any kind of radical social change; but in the absence of informed discussion about Rojava’s economics from more revolutionary perspectives, it’s a start.

From the report:

“The three cantons are supposed to be governed by an elected assembly that controls Rojava’s executive bureau, but elections have not yet taken place. TEV-DEM scheduled them for an unspecified day in 2017, contrary to Bookchin’s model of creating municipalities that elect delegates to confederal councils. In Rojava, such municipalities are known as communes (“komun” in Kurdish), each containing roughly 150 houses and around a thousand inhabitants. An elected communal council manages relations between individual villages and the established authorities who still run local public services such as water and electricity, since the administrative framework of the prewar municipalities has not disappeared. Ideally, new municipalities would arise naturally from the communes, but in reality the new and old structures exist in parallel. The communes deliver certificates to the population for bread and fuel at low prices; they also supervise the local community and participate in its political education. This corresponds roughly with the village “committees” of Communist China.

In addition, Rojava’s communes are supposed to organize economic life by promoting cooperatives. In the countryside, farmers are organized in groups of fifteen and asked to work together and exchange surplus production with other cooperatives, including in the cities. This practice is in line with the goal of designing communes to be self-sufficient, with the eventual aim of eliminating traders and money while establishing a bartering system.

Yet skepticism is warranted about the principles behind these measures and their application on the ground. Until recently, the war’s economic disruption pushed Rojava’s population to organize a subsistence economy, and the Kurdish zone’s isolation created practical reasons to favor self-sufficiency. Yet now that overland links are reopening, this policy can only be justified on the ideological level.

INCOMPATIBLE WITH ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION

In the agricultural sector, the new authorities in Jazira want to reduce the canton’s share of cereals and cotton, the main crops produced in the area, in order to make room for activities that would make local communities more self-sufficient in feeding themselves, such as market gardening and arboriculture. To effect this change, large estates and public lands need to be entrusted to the population and organized in cooperatives. Yet the people seem unlikely to embrace this new economic system. The TEV-DEM program could seduce the landless peasants of Jazira, to whom the PYD plans to distribute former public domains, but it is unpalatable to existing owner-farmers, who would no doubt prefer to continue working individually. Moreover, market gardening requires much greater personal investment than cereal farming, which is hardly compatible with the collectivist spirit the PYD has sought to inculcate.

Meanwhile, industry is almost absent from all of the cantons, mainly because the Assad regime preferred to keep things that way for “security reasons.” For instance, only two cotton mills were built in the Hasaka area of Jazira. This means Rojava authorities will not have to nationalize any factories — but only because such facilities are nonexistent. To fill this gap and meet local needs, they would like to develop agro-food and manufacturing industries. They might also try to make fuller use of local oil resources (estimated at 150,000 barrels per day in 2011), which would require foreign investment.

Yet attracting investors into such an anti-capitalist system would be difficult. Entrepreneurship is encouraged in Rojava, but only within the framework of cooperatives. Similarly, engineers and technicians are needed to work for the “revolution,” but individuals who have the necessary degrees and training tend to leave Rojava because salaries are too low there. Moreover, many young men fear conscription and prefer to take refuge in Iraq. The middle classes in particular are experiencing this demographic hemorrhage, since liberal professionals and entrepreneurs are largely excluded from the economic system currently being set up.

REVEALING ROJAVA’S RELATIONS WITH DAMASCUS

The application of Ocalan’s theories is still modest in Rojava’s economic sphere, as the PYD is aware that it risks alienating a large part of the population, especially those who only rallied to the group for fear of the Islamic State. The reopening of land communications with the Assad regime zone in western Syria is encouraging a return to the lucrative exportation of cereals and cotton. Moreover, manufactured goods from the regime zone will likely flood Rojava markets before any local production could develop. Accordingly, local authorities may resort to protectionism to defend the cantons economically, perhaps by imposing tariffs and cutting off the western Syrian market.

If the PYD’s cooperative economic system fails due to these pressures, the party would have two choices: coercing locals into accepting Ocalan’s theories, or declaring a “pause” in implementation due to wartime circumstances, much like Vladimir Lenin did with the Soviet Union’s New Economic Policy in 1920. In the first case, the “communalization” of Rojava’s economy would entail the expropriation of property belonging to certain social groups, namely, constituencies that are deemed opponents of the PYD. This property would then be redistributed to the party’s own base with the objective of strengthening its influence and eliminating the Assad regime’s. Such efforts would also indicate a separatist mindset, despite the federal model the PYD has been outwardly promoting.

In the second case, a “pause” in economic collectivization would likely spur the PYD to renounce its intention of changing Rojava society and agree to normalize relations with Damascus. The Kurdish cantons would then be reinstated in the Syrian economic space and the impediments to private initiative lifted. Whichever approach the party chooses, the local population — Kurdish and non-Kurdish — will be more inclined to accept the pursuit of some form of autonomy if their living conditions improve.”

Posted in Internationalism, The left | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Cleaners and security guards strike together, Wednesday 17th May

Security guards organised through the IWGB grassroots union at the University of London will be out on strike on Tuesday 16th-Wednesday 17th, fighting for fair pay, an end to zero hours contracts and proper payslips. Meanwhile, cleaners at the London School of Economics, organised in the UVW union, will also be out on the 17th, in the latest installment of their long-running dispute demanding equal treatment with other members of staff. These two groups of workers, fighting parallel struggles in different trades, at different workplaces, and through different unions, will be marching together from one workplace to the other on the morning of the 17th, and anyone in the London area who’s free that day should definitely think about trying to get down there.

Cleaners or security guards: Who wore it better?

Further ahead, towards the end of the month, on May 26th Feminist Fightback will be hosting a film showing of Waging a Living, a film about a previous UVW dispute that won pay rises for cleaners at the Barbican, and a discussion and short film about the current LSE strike, and then the evening after that the IWGB and UVW will be holding a joint summer fiesta, if anyone fancies having a drink and a dance with some of the capital’s best-organised militant workers. For more information about the two disputes, or to contribute to their respective strike funds, go here for the UoL security guards, or here for the LSE cleaners.

Posted in Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment