From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mexican Miners fight back: An Interview with Napoleon Gomez

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada - In this wide ranging video interview (below), Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, President of Los Mineros, the Independent National Miners, Metallurgical and Steelworkers Union of Mexico, talks about the Mexican government's recent strike-breaking attack on copper miners in Cananea, Mexico. He describes some of the international solidarity the miners are getting from around the world and tells us about the talks now going on with the United Steelworkers union (USW), aimed at merging the two unions into a North American wide industrial union that can take on transnational giants like Grupo Mexico, the owner of the Cananea mine and the third largest copper company in the world. The new union will unite Mexican, Canadian, Caribbean and US workers.

We sat down during a break at the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on June 22nd in Vancouver. Gomez has been living in exile in Vancouver for the last four years with the support of the United Steelworkers. He moved first to the US and then to Canada fearing for his and his family's safety in the face of illegal attacks on the union by the Mexican government.

Even in exile, Gomez has been overwhelmingly elected president five times by the union's membership despite the government's illegal refusal to ratify the election results. Gomez continues to manage the unions affairs from his office in the USW's Vancouver offices. His support in the union is so strong that other companies in Mexico, that have contracts with Los Mineros, travel to Vancouver for bargaining sessions with the union.

Our interview followed a briefing on the situation in Cananea for the US delegation to the ITUC congress hosted by Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada and Fred Redmond, USW International Vice President for Human Affairs. Arlene Holt Baker, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President, thanked Gomez for the update and pledged the continuing support of the US labor movement in building the necessary solidarity to win justice for the Mexican miners.

Napoleon Gomez - Interview at International Labor Congress from Scott Marshall on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Labor Leaders: Reject Dictatorship of Markets

Inuit Throat Singers welcome delegates to the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada – World labor leaders gathered here in the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation, are of one mind in rejecting the so-called “Washington consensus” that calls for deregulation of the banks and financial markets. In his opening address, Guy Ryder, the out-going general secretary of the ITUC, called for and end to the “dictatorship of the finance-atariate.” He said it is the people’s time to fight for “fundamental change in globalization.”

The delegates amplified Ryders message in their remarks and in one voice declared that decent work and jobs is the only real answer to the economic crisis. Overwhelmingly the delegates in their addresses to the congress called for financial transaction taxes to pay for jobs and the recovery.

Richard Trumka, speaking for the AFL-CIO from the US delegation, called for bold action for a “new economic order.” Citing the violent government attacks and repression against the Mexican miners union in Cananea, Trumka said the new order must include strong labor and human rights. He said that collective bargaining and the right to organize are cornerstones of real democracy in a new economic order.

A highlight of the convention so far was an address by a young hotel worker from Vancouver. She spoke about their struggle for a new contract with some of the biggest hotel chains in the world like Hyatt and Fours Seasons. She said that these hotels in Vancouver are recovering from the economic crisis and the rooms are full. And still she said they are cutting staff, increasing work loads and demanding concessions even as they make big profits.

Many delegates raised the issue of fighting for the unemployed and jobs even as global labor puts forward the demand for stock transaction taxes and re-regulation of the financial markets. Many also pointed out that a crisis of poverty, hunger and homelessness was rampant throughout the developing world long before the financial market melt down and the Great Recession.

Like many of the delegates, A. Santos of Brazil argued that the crisis shows the failure of the neo-liberal model with its deregulation, wild speculation and attacks on labor and human rights. He called for a new economic model that will put people back to work with decent jobs and income, that will provide a strong role for the state in regulating and controlling finance capital and tackle sustainable economic development to end poverty, hunger and homelessness.

J. Smit of the Netherlands echoed the call of many delegates for fundamental change in globalization. This system doesn’t work and the invisible hand is dead, he said, just as feudalism has failed so this system has to be discarded. He called for a new system that provides social security, labor rights, a strong public sector, strong services, and strong banking controls. We need a sustainable green system he said.

Several delegates joined with A. Jerad of Tunisia in calling for peace as central to a new economic model. In particular Jerad called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and for a an independent Palestinian state. Others called for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This echoed Ryder’s address when he said, “our world is not just and not at peace.” He said wars “are a blight” on progress and that trade unionists must fight to end them.

Delegates also called for special attention to the impact of the crisis on women and young workers. Many spoke of the terrible conditions faced by women in the informal economy and in export zones around the world. And they called for special efforts to bring women into unions and into union leadership.

S. Andersson of Sweden spoke of the work of the ITUC’s youth committee. She told of how young workers are using social networks and new technology to bring young people into the labor movement. She outlined some of the special problems facing young workers including being forced into temporary work with no rights where they are often cheated out of wages. She said the ITUC must become a loud voice for young workers.

Also much attention was given to questions of green development and sustainability by the delegates. They heartily agreed with Ryder when he said, “The road to global justice must be a green road. Green development and protecting the environment cannot be put off to after the crisis.”

Throughout the discussion it was clear that a new fighting spirit is emerging in global labor. With all the calls for action from the congress came also a realization that labor must form bigger and stronger coalitions to take on finance capital globally. As one delegate put it, “if we are united, if we reach out to all of labor and all of the people, we can push back just as hard as the banks and the multinational corporations try to push us.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Global Union Leaders Blast Financial Greed

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada - The second world congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) opened Monday in Vancouver. Guy Ryder(center), ITUC general secretary and Sharan Burrow, ITUC president, were joined by Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress in a pre-congress press conference.

Each gave a brief opening statement. Each blasted different aspects of the economic crisis and its impact on working people. And each blamed the crisis on the greed of the banks and financial institutions. Georgetti put it this way, “Our principal is that if you make a mess, whether drilling, mining or financial, then you have to clean it up.”

The labor leaders said that the current crisis shows the need for “fundamental” change. Ryder said the ITUC was about building international solidarity in the workplace from the bottom up to give workers a voice at the table of international financial institutions like the G-20, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Georgetti noted that the “greedy” voices already have a permanent place at the table, but labor and workers have to fight to be heard at all. Ryder further noted that the glaring inequalities of the crisis provides an opportunity for basic change.

The ITUC leaders argued strongly against the austerity programs being put forward by world governments. They noted that it is global stimulus efforts that have saved 20 million jobs world wide. Ryder said that the ITUC will continue to fight austerity drives full force. He said that some leaders of affiliated national labor federations will be absent from the congress because they are leading mass mobilizations in their countries. He gave as an example that several key French labor leaders would not be able to come because they are organizing mass actions against the Sarkozy government’s pension “reforms” that will hurt workers by raising retirement ages and taxes on workers.

Burrow said there can be no economic recovery without “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The ITUC is working with affiliates to build for massive coordinated workers protests against the crisis on September 29th around the world. The Spanish affiliates are already calling for a general strike for the day.

More coverage of the ITUC congress to follow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Workers of the World Uniting for Justice

By Scott Marshall

The second world congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is a significant event. Taking place in Vancouver, Canada, June 21 through 25th, the congress theme is “The People Now: From the Crisis to Global Justice.”

(You can help us with our coverage – see below *)

The congress comes on the heels of the ITUC’s Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights. In it, the ITUC makes a strong case that the global economic crisis means “public authorities and companies have continued to use the crisis as a pretext to weaken and undermine trade union rights.”

The survey notes the horrible fact that at least a 101 trade unionists and labor activists were murdered in 2009. This is a 30% increase over the 76 killed in 2008. These shocking numbers graphically show the rising tide of violence and assault on trade union rights. Further, the survey documents global union busting, including the giant transnational corporation’s playing of workers in developed countries against workers in developing countries.
The congress agenda includes several plenary panel discussions dealing with the global economic crisis and with the fightback and global solidarity needed by labor to defend unions, workers and labor rights.

The ITUC congress will highlight its international solidarity efforts. For example, the global federation has mounted efforts in support of the Mexican miners union under attack at the Cananea mine in Sonora and the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila. The ITUC has called for solidarity against the use of federal troops and police force to remove the striking miners an action that wounded and killed several miners. Now the troops are being used to protect scabs hired by Grupo Mexico, a giant mining transnational and the largest mine owner in Mexico.

The ITUC was founded in 2006 through a merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labor. The ICFTU came out of a cold war split from the World Federation of Trade Unions in 1949. Today, while the WFTU and the ITUC have no formal ties, increasingly they are pursuing similar programs of struggle and several national labor federations are affiliated with both.

*I will be covering this important international labor congress for the People Before Profits Education Fund Speakers Bureau and will be available for interviews and speaking engagements. You can help make our participation possible by sending a contribution to the People Before Profits Education Fund at 235 W. 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. All contributions are tax deductible.

And you can read daily updates on the congress here on the People’s World website here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

BP Gulf Gusher and Coleridge

"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

In 2000 British Petroleum set out on a campaign to
promote the new bp "as the choice for the environmentally-aware motorist.

The lower-case letters were chosen because focus groups said bp is friendlier than the old imperialistic BP, which reminded folks of the old "Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves."

Buckets of paint appeared everywhere and bp daubed all its property in green paint and advertised its annual report under the slogan 'Now We're Greener Than Ever.'" The new tag line became "bp - Beyond petroleum. Make the day a little better."

Now, in the spring of 2010, it looks like it may be time for a re-branding of the corporate image. One suited to today's realities.

It could be built around the refrain at the beginning of this post taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."