Posts Tagged ‘strike’

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Protest of the day

Posted: 18 May 2016 in Uncategorized
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Today, strikes by French railway and port workers [ht: sm] cut train services and forced cancellation of ferry links to Britain—as labor unions sought to force President Francois Hollande’s government into retreat on labor law reforms.

Wednesday’s rail strikes, set to run until Friday morning, reduced high-speed and inter-city services by 40 to 50 percent, also heavily disrupting local and suburban commuter lines, the SNCF state railway company said.

Brittany Ferries announced mass cancellations of connections between Britain and northern France, where port workers joined the industrial action.

Truckers maintained blockades set up on Tuesday in a bid to strangle deliveries in and out of fuel and food distribution depots.

At issue is one of Hollande’s flagship reforms a year from a presidential election, law changes designed to make it easier for employers to hire and fire staff and to opt out of cumbersome national rules in favor of in-house accords on pay.

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Greek workers have begun a 3-day general strike in protest against further austerity measures that are being proposed in return for more bailout money from their European creditors.

Even the Wall Street Journal admits that the proposed package of fiscal retrenchment measures is unsustainable, as it could come to 5 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product.

Eurozone finance ministers are holding a special meeting on Monday to debate the problem. Few expect a solution. One is needed at the latest by July, when Greece will default on bond debts unless a deal unlocks fresh bailout aid. The number causing the most grief is 3.5% of GDP: the primary-surplus target written in last year’s Greek bailout agreement. “The IMF thinks the primary objective should be lower. That would help Greece,” says David Mackie, chief European economist at J.P. Morgan.

Aiming for a smaller surplus would allow for less austerity, and for the Greek economy to breathe, IMF officials have argued for months. But it would also entail restructuring European loans to Greece, so that its debt doesn’t spiral ever higher. At a minimum, the IMF wants Europe to postpone Greece’s payment obligations by decades.

Eurozone governments led by Germany don’t want to take a hit on their Greek bailout loans, which total €205 billion ($234 billion) so far. Berlin is insisting the primary-surplus goal can’t be changed.

The fact is, since 2010, a succession of Greek governments have enacted spending cuts and tax increases worth a total of 32.3 percent of GDP, “a scale of austerity far beyond that seen in any other European country during the financial-crisis era.”

Greek workers are saying no more—and even the Wall Street Journal, which still considers the previous austerity measures to have been “inevitable,” can’t find a policymaker or economist who “argues that further belt-tightening on that scale is what Greece’s economy needs at this point.”

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The victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster have finally had their day in court. Not yet, though, the miners who were brutally assaulted five years earlier outside the Orgreave coking plant.

Yesterday, at long last, a jury found that 96 Liverpool soccer fans at the match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England had been “unlawfully killed” and the victims of what proved to be fatal police mistakes.

Last year, unfortunately, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that the police would not be investigated for charges of assault and misconduct against the 8,000-10,000 miners who went on strike leading up to the June 1984 “Battle of Orgreave.”

Dave Smith, a former miner and former president of Dinnington NUM was at Orgreave on 18 June 1984.

He said it was a hot day and they had been playing football, but the police arrived and all “hell let loose.”

“Horses came out, short shields came out; we tried to defend ourselves as best we could.

“Most of us were running like hell. We finished up down embankments, on to railway lines with dogs chasing us.

“People were seriously injured and I mean seriously injured, and left by the police.

“That’s not helping, that’s attacking, and we were attacked.”

Football obviously (and, not surprisingly, for the British working-class) connects the two tragedies. So, too, does the extensive evidence of police violence and subsequent coverup (which, as we know from recent events in the United States, is not confined to England). But, even more important, both groups of victims—the fans who were steered into overcrowded pens at Hillsborough Stadium and the miners who went to picket lorry drivers supplying coke to the steel industry and were subsequently attacked by police with short shields and truncheons (the first time they were ever used in Britain)—were treated as the “enemy within.”

Both events, remember, took place during the heyday of Thatcherism, which combined a free-market economic strategy with authoritarian populism. Or, as Stuart Hall succinctly put it (in Drifting into a Law and Order Society): “Make no mistake about it: under this regime, the market is to be Free; the people are to be Disciplined.”

Hillsborough (where the families and friends of the victims have won a victory) and Orgreave (where they have not, at least yet), each in their different way, represent attempts to impose that discipline.

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Bernie Sanders [ht: sm] walked the picket line, as he’s done so many times over the years, when he joined some of the nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who are currently on strike.

The Democratic presidential candidate was greeted with cheers when he showed up unexpectedly on the picket line in Brooklyn to show solidarity with striking landline and cable workers.

“Brothers and sisters, thank you for your courage in standing up for justice against corporate greed,” Sanders said to loud applause.

Protest of the day

Posted: 18 February 2016 in Uncategorized
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Workers in Ciudad Juárez are protesting Lexmark’s decision to fire about 75 workers who had submitted a formal request to form a union.

Lexmark, a Kentucky-based corporate leader in laser printers, is worth around $2bn and has the support of Mexico’s political establishment and apparently also its media and Catholic hierarchy, notwithstanding Pope Francis’s visit to Juárez on Wednesday.

The elites wish to snuff out defiance and stop rebellious contagion spreading across this industrial city, according to those inside the shack.

“We’re living on charity, and it’s tough, but we’re still here,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the protesters, as she huddled by a wood-burning stove. “We’re going forward. This is a system of modern slavery and we have to fight.”

The fight here is largely without precedent.

Ciudad Juárez, a gritty city of around one and a half million across the border from El Paso, Texas, is a global economy workshop. About 300 factories with headquarters in the US, Europe, China and elsewhere employ about 300,000 Mexicans. There are virtually no independent unions and, until now, little sign of worker mobilisation. Historically low wages are changing that.

“Conditions have become insufficient for survival,” said Elizabeth Flores, director of Pastoral Obrera, a labour and human rights advocacy group. “It has been a time bomb. This protest is an enormous opportunity.”

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, a cook in the U.S. Senate cafeteria, explains why he went on strike with hundreds of other federal contract workers in the nation’s capital today.

Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.

I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.

I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.

I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.

A National Employment Law Project survey of federal contract workers [pdf] found that, of the workers they interviewed, 74 percent of these workers earned under $10 per hour; nearly 60 percent received no job benefits; and 14 percent are forced to rely on foods stamps to make ends meet.