Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Blog Action Day 2013

Today is Blog Action Day (BAD), and since I have a blog and the liberal press has told me non stop how bloggers are21st century Che Guevara's and the laptop the new AK 47 why not take part? If you're unfamiliar BAD is a day where bloggers do what they do every other day of the year only around a certain theme. So its sort of like collective action.

This years theme is human rights and BAD has received backing by Unions to raise awareness of attacks on members and workers rights.Now I didn't know about this day until yesterday so instead of preparing something I've just taken a number of stubs I was working on and put them here so it'll be brief.

First some good news, the Ugandan section of the Industrial Workers of the World has successfully completed another in a series of fund raising initiatives to turn a good idea into a fully functioning branch and organising committee. In addition to successfully funding and completing a series of organiser trainings and establishing a functional office for administration and communication Ugandan Wobblies established a local producer for Union propaganda and local fund raising and purchased a motorcycle so organisers can travel to more remote parts outside of the cities.

This is pace of growth has been phenomenal, while the IWW has had contacts in Uganda for some time the actual work to establish an active presence in the country was started only a few months ago. Further information can be found on page five of the Industrial Worker.


In Scotland local Wobblies have recently formed the "Scottish Education Workers Network" that aims to build links between those who work in education, from porters to lecturers and students. Its early days but it has a lot of potential. Since education doesn't work like a business the lack of direct return for investment means universities will always be under pressure to "Make economies" i.e. cut funding.

And despite the student bodies famous history of radicalism student lead movements very really if ever come closer to achieving their goals. There's a couple of reasons for this, the first is simply that the Student Union isn't a Union its a social club, and an opportunity for corporate climbers to pad out their CV's with a flashy title. But since its the only organising body most Universities have its the one that takes the lead when things kick off. So its lack of experience often means the whole movement muddles about and then either fizzles out or breaks down into isolated and not very effective stunts and violence.

The ruling parties offices were occupied, and nothing changed. In other countries when that happens everyone has to learn a new anthem and hang up a portrait or two.
 And then there's the disgusting snobbery of students towards staff who aren't bearded Professors. Earn a wage without letters after your name and some students will treat you like a robot with squeaking joints. So naturally whenever staff or students are threatened there's little in the way of support from the other side. This is bad because in addition to limiting the potential support from the start and preventing some important experience being passed on it can open up a divide and rule strategy for the Administration. I know a few cases were staff strikes  where post grads and Doctoral students were used as replacement lecturers and assistants, and where porters have been used as extra security to remove demonstrators and occupiers.

So any initiative to organise the education sector and build links between the two groups is welcome in my opinnion.


I've got not one but two good news stories from America. In the city of Minneapolis (spelt that right first time) IWW members working for the Sisters of Camelot a "Non-profit"* food service for the community, have been in a long term strike due to the management (Who call themselves "the Collective") refused to recognise the Canvassers Union, and bring the canvassers into "the collective". Oh and they fired one the "ring leaders" for good measure. If you have no experience of charities beyond giving change to tin shakers this may surprise you. As someone whose work for and with a number of charities and "Social partnerships" I can tell you it doesn't surprise me that the boss or bosses of a charity act the same way as a CEO when there fiefdom is threatened.

Anyway while the strike goes on the Canvassers have decided to set up their own food sharing organisation to serve their community while the strike continues, since they used to bring in over 90% of Sisters of Camelot's funds and have experience in most of the roles required to run a food shelf.

 You maybe wondering why I'm including this in the "good" section since the struggle is still ongoing, well because in addition to the Canvassers maintaining a strong strike the establishment of a new food shelf means the local community will still be served, the Canvassers will now be receiving at least some regular funding for their families rather then depending on strike fund donations. And they are showing just how little use the boss and upper management types are in economic production. And the preamble of IWW does end with

The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
Which is just what the Canvassers are doing, one box of fruit and veg at a time.

Are second feel good story from the land of the free, concerns the return of the IWW to the Railways with the Mobile Rail Workers Union. The MRWU represents workers at a specialist truck company that services the rail way network. The MRWU has resisting retaliatory suspending and won recognition by ballot, as well as forcing a safety investigation which validated a number of the staffs grievances.

Again a small start but a promising one, that workers would seek out the IWW despite its lack of name recognition and material assets is encouraging, as is the hard work that the MRWU have taken to defend themselves and their fellow workers at Mobile Rail. I look forward to my inbox receiving further promising updates in the future.

Now its time I'm afraid for the bad news.


Not really surprising to see this country in the bad column for Workers rights is it? This time the complaint concerns the arrest of Colombian Trade Union leader Huber Ballesteros Vice President of an agricultural workers Union. Who was busy organising a series of protests that grew into a general strike of Colombia's farmers which recently shook the Colombian government and forced them to rethink their controversial seed laws.

Here's what Labourstart and Justice for Colombia had to say
Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. According to UN figures almost 3,000 trade unionists have been killed since 1986. In the first six months of 2013 at least 11 trade unionists were killed. State authorities are directly involved in many of these killings. In addition to physical attacks, imprisonment is often used to punish and silence trade unionists. On Sunday 25 August 2013, trade union leader Huber Ballesteros was arrested and imprisoned. Huber is one of Colombia's most recognised trade union leaders. He sits on the Executive Committee of Colombia's largest trade union federation, the CUT, as well as being Vice President of FENSUAGRO Agricultural Workers' Union and National Organiser for the union-backed Patriotic March movement. At the time of his arrest he was organising mass strikes across the country. His arrest is a clear attempt by Colombian authorities to punish him for his trade union activities and has been condemned by the ETUC and the ITUC. His release must be secured to send a clear message to the Colombian authorities that persecuting trade unionists will not be accepted.

Petition link

South Korea: 

The Korean government has given the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) until 23 October to amend its by-laws to ban dismissed and retired teachers from union membership -- or face deregistration. Currently, the KTU's constitution allows dismissed workers to remain members of the union. However, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act contains provisions prohibiting dismissed and unemployed workers from keeping their membership and making non-union members ineligible to stand for trade union office, in violation of international labour law. Recently, the Ministry of Employment and Labour refused, for the fourth time, to register the Korean Government Employees Union for the same reason. The International Labour Organization and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea have repeatedly criticized these exclusions, and recommended the government amend its legislation in order to comply with international labour standards.

 Yes the South Korean government is gearing up for a fight with the Teachers Union to prepare for education reforms. The Union has two choices, either accept empowering administrations to fire teachers more regularly as once they've lost their contract they lose all protections and legal support. This will of course open the Union to a slower but assured demise as its membership haemorrhages with each round of redundancies. Or as seems likely the Union will resist meaning the entire organisation will lose its legal bargaining power.

Petition link to add your support.


 Crown Holdings, a U.S.-based multinational company, is one of the major metal container companies in the world, producing cans for beverage and food containers in 149 countries. Despite almost doubling its profits in 2012, Crown has launched its latest attack on workers in Toronto, Canada, where members of the United Steelworkers (USW) were forced on strike. Crown is demanding the elimination of a cost of living allowance, the establishment of a two-tier wage system, and the continuation of an already nine-year freeze on pensions. These demands came soon after Crown gave these union members an achievement award for their "dedication, commitment, teamwork and personal accountability." USW members have drawn a line in the sand and are leading the "Take-Backs No More" global campaign to stop years of Crown building its profits on the backs of workers. Unite (UK), the International Association of Machinists, and IndustriALL are building a global union network to stop Crown's attacks. Join the "Take-Backs No More Campaign" by sending a letter to Crown Holdings CEO John Conway.

 The classic, "You've worked much harder and made us much richer.... however we still need to cutback our outgoings so here's a wage freeze and forget your cover". If you've had a fizzy or alcoholic drink you've held some of these workers handiwork. Its also good to see some international solidarity, I have my criticisms of craft and business unions but its good to see them putting some of there dues money to good use. Of course I think the best network is the One Big Union model offered by the IWW but I must be honest and admit that'll be awhile coming.

Untill then I'll lend a hand and hope you do like wise.
Petition link

*There's been some controversy about this, apparently in 2005 they reformed themselves in a way that meant they were now profitable but kept the status.

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