Saturday, November 21, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Seattle Developer Lorig Sues to Gag Anti-Discrimination Protests

South Puget Sound IMC Nov. 19, 2009

On Monday, November 16th, Seattle-based property developer Lorig
Associates served a lawsuit against the members of a local community
organization known as the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol). According
to its website,, SeaSol is an all-volunteer workers' and
tenants' group which organizes activities such as picketing, leafleting,
and office delegations to pressure employers and landlords whom they
believe are responsible for mistreating someone in the Network.

In its lawsuit, the developer seeks a court injunction "prohibiting
Defendants from making any statements or acting in any manner that
adversely affects Lorig's goodwill or reputation, including but not
limited to...leafleting, picketing, or otherwise negatively painting Lorig
in a false light." It also seeks an order for Solidarity Network members
to pay unspecified damages to Lorig.

According to its website, SeaSol's conflict with Lorig began over its
belief that CEO Bruce Lorig had unjustly fired a longstanding African
American employee, Patricia Milton, in a conflict over alleged workplace
discrimination and harassment. Lorig's Chief Operations Officer, Tom
Fitzsimmons, has recently released statements denying that Mr Lorig is
racially prejudiced, citing the company's employment of multiple black
workers both currently and at various times in the past. Despite these
statements, SeaSol has continued to describe Milton's treatment as
"discrimination" and has urged individuals and institutions to avoid doing
business with Lorig.

On Tuesday, Milton and several other SeaSol supporters addressed the City
Council of Olympia, calling Lorig's lawsuit "despicable" and an attempt to
"crush a community organization and gag public speech." Olympia had been
considering hiring Lorig to develop a downtown parking structure, but
voted later in the meeting to cancel the project, citing the poor economy.

The first court hearing in the dispute will be on Tuesday, November 24th,
at 8:30 am at the King County Superior Court, 516 3rd Ave, Seattle. Judge
Laura Inveen will hear Lorig's request for a Temporary Restraining Order
to immediately block the defendants from leafleting, picketing, or
speaking against Lorig.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

[olympiaworkers] WTO 10th Anniversary Commemoration

From: "Kardas, Peter" <>

A message from SPEEA's Stan Sorscher, who is helping to organize a 10th
anniversary commemoration of the WTO meeting and protests in Seattle:

This month is the 10th anniversary of the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle.

To mark the event, a two-day gathering is planned for Saturday, Nov. 28
and Sunday, Nov. 29. Please join the labor community to see how we can
move forward with a new trade policy for workers, families and

Saturday, Nov. 28 at Seattle University
Opening keynotes by Bob Hasegawa and David Korten
Many workshops during the day, including:

James Ploeser, Public Citizen 2:30-4 p.m.
Thea Lee, AFL-CIO at 4:15-5:45 p.m.

Sunday Nov. 29 at Town Hall - doors open at 6 p.m.
Featured speakers will include:

Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers (by video)
Thea Lee, AFL-CIO Policy Director
Jim Sinclair, British Columbia Labour Federation

For more information, and handy flyers in pdf format, go to

Co-sponsored by Washington State Labor Council, M.L. King County Labor
Council and many community organizations.

[olympiaworkers] LABOR CENTER NEWS


November, 2009
Greetings from Washington State's Labor Education and Research Center
(currently located at the Evergreen State College)! In order to keep you
better informed about what we're doing we will be sending monthly email
<> .


1) Changing the date for Organizing Class! Our next UNION POWER class is on
ORGANIZING! Originally scheduled for Jan 14 & 15, it is being pushed back
a week to Jan 21 & 22, 2010. See below for details.

2) The Martin Luther King County Central Labor Council Education Committee
is launching a book group! The first book is Solidarity Divided: The
Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice by Bill
Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin. The group's first meeting is TODAY
Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 208 at the Seattle Labor
Temple. Feel free to join us and/or, if you want to know about future
meetings, email Sarah Laslett -
<> .

3) Our Labor Center is co-sponsoring the 2010 West Coast Summer Institute
for Union Women with the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research
Center. The Institute will be held from July 6 -10, 2010 on the campus of
Reed College in Portland. Save those dates; we'll be sending more details
as the planning evolves! If you would like to help organize the school,
email Sarah Laslett,
<> .


P rograms
O n
W orker
E ducation and
R ights

UNION POWER offers regularly-scheduled classes open to participants from
multiple unions and community organizations. There will be a per person
charge for each class, depending on the length of the class and what
resources are required. A minimum of five participants will be needed in
order to run a class. Our monthly bulletins announce what trainings are
scheduled. Please let us know what topics you would like to see offered!

Union Power Schedule of Classes

1) ORGANIZING - INTERNAL and EXTERNAL: Originally scheduled for Jan 14 &
15, this class is being re-scheduled to Jan 21 (Thurs 1:00 pm - 5:30 pm) &
22 (Fri 8:30 am - 5:00 pm), 2010. This training will introduce unionists
and labor activists to the organizing model and a variety of methods for
implementing it, provide exercises to develop organizing skills, and offer
opportunities to understand organizing strategy. Cost is $125 per person;
the class will be held at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle
Community College. To sign up or for more information email <> .

2) SOLIDARITY! March 2010 - This class will look at the history of
organized labor in the United States and the meaning of Solidarity. When
have workers supported each other in the struggle for workplace justice
and when have we succeeded? When has our solidarity failed and we have
lost? What does solidarity between workers, both inside unions and
outside unions, mean today for our political and economic empowerment?
Interested? For more information email
<> .

3) LABOR HISTORY & UNIONISM 101 IN SPANISH! March 2010 - These classes
will be offered in both Western & Eastern Washington. Basic information
will be provided about how unions work, how the U.S. labor movement has
developed, the role of Latinos & other immigrant communities in labor, and
how current immigration rights struggles tie in to labor struggles.
Interested? Email
<> .

include great stories from the history of labor organizing, a Power Point
slide show, and music! We will bring this educational, entertaining, and
dynamic presentation to your meetings or events. To schedule a
presentation, email
<> .

be offering ongoing leadership development classes for native/Latino
immigrants in the Auburn area. For more information email him at <>

NEED A TRAINING TAILORED FOR YOUR UNION? If what we're already offering
does not meet the needs of your union or organization, we can design and
implement trainings on a wide variety of topics for one or more unions or
organizations. Some of the topics we can train on include:

* Rank & File Leadership

* Staff Development

* Recruiting the Next Generation of Leaders

* Basic Workers' Rights

* Immigration and Labor

* Strategic Planning & Campaign Design

* Salting

* Meeting Facilitation

* Organizing: Internal and External

* Shop Stewarding

* Collective Bargaining

OUR FEES: We have a standard fee schedule of $65 per hour or $500 per day
for preparation and training, but will work on a sliding scale. As
mentioned above, there will be a per person charge for each of the UNION
POWER classes.

WORKERS' RIGHTS MANUAL: This invaluable resource can be downloaded for
free at our website in both English & Spanish:
<> /.

Staff & Contact Information:

Peter Kardas, Director
360-867-6526 <>

Nina Triffleman, Assistant Director
360-867-6055 <>

Juan José Bocanegra, Labor Educator for Union and Immigrant Workers
360-867-5524 <>

Sarah Laslett, Labor Educator for Union and Community Women
360-867-6527 <>

The Labor Center has a Facebook page! Check out great photographs from our
July 2009 Summer School for Union Women and Community Activists, and more!
Go to <>
<> and log in or join, then search for "solidarity
works" and you will find the link to our page.

Want to know more? For more information about our programs, see our Labor
Center newsletters. Check out our website at <> .
Feel free to call or email us at any time with questions or ideas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

[olympiaworkers] China: Strike by 3,000 women workers

Hainan garment workers take on European lingerie giant 'Triumph'

Sunday, 15 November 2009., Hong Kong

Women workers at a garment factory in Hainan, southern China, began a
strike on Wednesday 11 November to press their demands on pay and
vacations after management announced drastic cuts in bonuses. Around 3,000
workers at the Hainan Youmei Underwear Co., Ltd in Haikou City, the
provincial capital, gathered outside the plant. The factory is wholly
owned by German-Swiss lingerie giant Triumph International, one of the
world's leading manufacturers of women's underwear.

"The strike started after the management said a worker could not get
year-end bonus if her production efficiency failed to reach 50 percent of
the average level last year," Mo Xiaohui, a worker at the plant told
Xinhua. "That was impossible for most of us as the production dropped
sharply in the financial crisis."

"The boss wants to cut our bonus worth about 700 yuan (102 U.S. dollars),
even if our monthly salary is as low as between 500 yuan and 600 yuan (73
to 88 U.S. dollars)," said a worker named Li Guihua. "It's going too far."

By Friday the company agreed to pay all workers their bonus, but workers
decided to continue their strike over their other demands, Han Lirong,
head of the firm's official (state-controlled) union, was quoted as
saying. Workers across China's manufacturing sector, many of them migrants
without job protection or rights to medical insurance and pensions, have
suffered pay cuts this year as the global capitalist crisis has battered
China. The government's stimulus measures have helped save the rich, big
companies and corrupt officialdom, but have not benefited factory workers
and the poor.

"Now we have to go on strike as we have long been asking the company to
accept our demands," Mo said.

In addition to protesting over the threatened cut in bonuses, the Triumph
workers are demanding the company raise wages to the minimum national
standard and provide employees with normal levels of leave. Huang Xueyan,
the company's personnel manager, said the negotiation was hard as workers
would not select representatives to talk with the management. This is not
surprising! It just shows the difficulties facing workers during labour
disputes in China, where genuine independent trade unions are outlawed.
The Haikou workers have undoubtedly decided not to put forward individual
representatives for fear of victimisation by the company or by the state –
on grounds that their strike "undermines stability".

Triumph International's record

Triumph International, which has its global headquarters in Switzerland,
had an annual turnover of 1.6 billion euros in 2003, with 38,691 employees
in 120 countries. The company is no newcomer to accusations of labour
abuses and union-busting. In June this year it closed down two factories
in the Philippines and halved its Thai workforce as part of a global
'restructuring' plan. The moves were widely seen as a ploy to smash the
unions at its operations in these countries. Earlier this year, the
company's wholly-owned subsidiary Body Fashion Thailand, dismissed union
president Jitra Kotshadej for taking part in a national television debate
wearing a t-shirt with the text 'Thinking differently is not a crime'.

Workers from the Philippines and Thailand units of Triumph International,
supported by Hong Kong trade unions and migrant groups, staged a protest
in August 2009 outside the company's offices in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong.
They were protesting about Triumph's closure plan with the retrenchment of
1,663 workers in the Philippines, and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs in

"When it comes to profit, Triumph International is so fast to extract
wealth from us but when it comes to obligation and responsibility, they
are now running away." Isabelita dela Cruz, a spokeswoman and union
representative from the Philippines. "We cannot wait for any longer
because our families and children in the Philippines and in Thailand are
suffering and live in miserable condition. Many of our children stop
schooling and soon we will be ejected from our homes."

[Triumph workers protest against sackings]

Solidarity needed! is appealing for international support and solidarity for
the women strikers in Haikou. They are pitted against a notoriously
exploitative company and fighting courageously under a political regime
that bans strikes and often resorts to severe repression. Solidarity
action could include sending letters, faxes and emails of protest to the
company (address below) or staging protests outside company offices or
stores selling Triumph underwear. gives its permission for this article to be reproduced
and used as an information leaflet in connection with solidarity action.
Triumph International global headquarters:
Promenadenstrasse 24
Bad Zurzach 5330
Phone: 49 89 51 11 80

Triumph International Asia headquarters:
32/F One Kowloon
1 Wang Yuen St Kowloon Bay
Kln Hong Kong
Business Tel (852) 2341 2211
Business Fax (852) 2793 5181

Sunday, November 15, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Zimbabwe: Union Leaders Released Nov. 14, 2009

Harare - Five trade union leaders arrested under Zimbabwe's repressive
security laws have been released after spending four nights in jail, an
official said on Friday.

The five, including the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) Lovemore Matombo, were arrested on Sunday on charges of holding a
meeting without police authorisation.

They were released late on Thursday from their cells in the resort town of
Victoria Falls, after a court tossed out the charges, the group said in a

"It is heartbreaking that innocent people had to spend four nights in
filthy police cells and only freed after the intervention of the courts,"
ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe said in a statement.

"The ZCTU, however welcomes the court's ruling that the police had no
business disrupting the ZCTU meeting and arresting innocent trade

Chibebe said the Public Order and Security Act, used to detain the five,
"does not cover trade unions but the police continue to disrupt trade
union activities."

"The police should be undoubtedly ashamed of their actions," he added.

The arrests drew condemnation from union movements around the continent,
and the European Union on Thursday issued a statement calling for their

[olympiaworkers] Solidarity Picket at Olympia City Hall Nov. 17


Thanks to everyone who made it out to this Olympia action last week.
We've just found out that the mayor of Olympia is trying to rush the City
of Olympia's decision about choosing a developer for the downtown
municipal parking garage. The mayor wants to skip the Request For
Proposals and have the city use a developer chosen by his staff only.

Our favorite discriminating property developers, Lorig Associates ( for more info), are hoping the Olympia City Council will
choose to award them this contract. It looks like the City Council will be
voting *next Tuesday* on whether to short-circuit the decision-making
process, and we want to be there to urge the city council to make the right
choice: anyone but Lorig!

WHEN/WHERE: This Tuesday, November 17th. Those coming from Seattle are
meeting up at LELO (3700 S Hudson St) at 4pm and then carpooling down to
Olympia. We're starting so early because travel time on I-5 can be
unpredictable, and we can't risk missing this action opportunity due to
traffic jams. If we get to Olympia early, we'll start picketing early.
Those who are already in or near Olympia should meet us at 6:15pm in front
of the City of Olympia building at 900 Plum Street SE, Olympia, WA.

WHAT: We'll be picketing outside, and flyering inside, the Olympia City
Council meeting, letting everyone know the truth about Lorig. As usual,
this council meeting will be televised live. Let's see if we can reduce
Lorig's chances of scoring a contract from the city of Olympia!

Friday, November 13, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Strike by over 1000 Haft Tapeh cane cutters ends in victory!

More than 1000 cane cutters at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company have
ended their three day strike after the management agreed to meet the
workers' demands.

The cane cutters went on strike at 11am on November 9 and continued their
strike the next by gathering at the cane cutting camp of the company. The
workers demanded the immediate payment of the annual productivity bonus.
Most of the cane cutters are seasonal workers from the nearby Lorestan
province, working for the company for five or six months a year.

The workers ended the strike on November 12 once their bonuses were paid.
The success of this strike is even more remarkable when we consider the
fact that many of the leaders of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company
Workers' Trade Union are in prison.

Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network

12 November 2009.

For further news on Haft Tapeh and how you can help see the special

IWSN home

Thursday, November 12, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Strike at World's Largest Nickel Mine

International solidarity organizes against Vale Inco, 2nd largest
transnational mining giant in the world

By Marc Bonhomme; November 12, 2009 - Znet

Source: The Bullet

In France's south Pacific colony of New Caledonia, a small delegation of
Vale Inco strikers from Sudbury, in Northeastern Ontario, most of them
Franco-Ontarians, met in October with the union at the island's Vale Inco
nickel mine, due to open in 2010 although it threatens a UNESCO nature
reserve. The newspaper Nouvelles calédoniennes reported the encounter, in
its October 31 edition:

"In the face of the global economy, the labour movement is looking to
internationalize. In Canada, 3,500 workers at Vale Inco are currently on
strike. Their union, the United Steelworkers, has launched a crusade to
visit every Vale Inco site on the planet, for the purpose of forging
alliances. In New Caledonia, union representatives met with the unions
that represent the workers at the plant located in the south. ...

For the past three and a half months, ...workers at Vale Inco in Canada
have been engaged in a test of strength with the Brazilian multinational
that absorbed Inco, the Canadian nickel giant which initiated the Goro
Nickel project in Caledonia. ...

They are accusing the Vale group of taking advantage of the global crisis
and lower profits to make underhanded cuts in employees' wages, pension
plans and social assistance programs. They are also organizing visits to
all of Vale Inco's sites in Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and New
Caledonia, to create a sort of worldwide alliance between the various
unions that represent the multinational corporation's employees."[1]

The strike at Vale Inco began in mid-July at Sudbury, a city of 150,000
inhabitants, one third of them Francophone. In early August the strike was
joined by workers at the Vale Inco refinery in Port Colborne, on Lake
Erie, and the mine at Voisey's Bay in Labrador. Vale is engaged in a
frenzied competition with BHP-Billiton, an Australian-British company and
the world's largest, Rio Tinto, the third largest, and other mining giants
in a process of concentration and centralization of the international
mining industry. They are seeking to profit from the exponential rise in
metal prices in recent years as a result of the explosive growth in demand
in the emerging economies, and to strengthen their position with the major
purchasers, above all the Chinese government and the big new producers in
those countries.

Vale, too big to be defeated in a single country

In a push for diversification, Vale, a leading iron ore producer,
purchased the Canadian nickel transnational Inco two years ago. The
current economic crisis suddenly forced down raw materials prices,
particularly for nickel. Vale, which had earlier settled for contract
improvements with its employees in Thompson, Manitoba, is now demanding
that its other workers agree to a three-year wage freeze, a defined
contributions pension plan for new hires (the current plan is defined
benefits), a major reduction in the annual production bonus (which has
averaged 25% of the base wage), now to be pegged to the firm's
profitability, and a weaker wage indexation clause.

But unlike its major rivals, who have experienced liquidity problems
resulting in major layoffs - Rio Tinto-Alcan in Quebec, for example - Vale
has remained quite profitable despite the collapse in prices and has not
carried out massive layoffs, although it did dismiss a few hundred Inco
employees after buying this company. In Brazil itself, it plans to
increase its workforce by 12% in 2010 following major investments demanded
by the Brazilian government; the state-owned banks are significant
financiers of Vale. In Brazil, as in New Caledonia, wages are lower, and
perhaps the environmental constraints as well.

In 2008 Vale made a profit of US$13.2-billion. Its subsidiary Vale Inco
made more profits in two years (2006-2008) than Inco did in ten
(1996-2006): US$4.1-billion. In the third quarter of 2009, together with
the new rise in nickel and iron ore prices, its profit doubled from the
previous quarter although it was only a third of what it was in the same
period in 2008. The company was so proud of this result that its directors
had planned to go to the New York and London stock exchanges for media
events in late October. Unfortunately for them, they had to cancel when
small delegations of strikers came to disrupt the events with the help of
local union members linked with the International Trade Union
Confederation (ITUC) - about twenty strikers in New York supported by U.S.
steelworkers but also some teachers.

Vale was so optimistic at that point that it announced it would be
distributing $2.75-billion in dividends in 2009 - more than the cost of
the wages and benefits of its 100,000 plus employees in 35 countries
worldwide. But the strike has been relatively effective. Nickel production
in the third quarter of 2009 is down by 45% from the second quarter and by
55% from the equivalent quarter in 2008, not to mention the direct cost of
$200-million for the strike. However, the new rise in nickel prices has
somewhat offset the lower volume, and the production of nickel (and
copper, which Vale Inco extracts concurrently) is a marginal component of
the transnational's overall operations, while it was central for the old

Vale profits from the severity of the crisis in Ontario

Since its privatization in 1997 - it was a state-owned corporation in
Brazil, founded during the Second World War - Vale has been systematically
fighting its workers. In Brazil, its employees have no job security; the
company dismisses them without cause and fires most once they have three
to five years seniority in order to hire at a lower wage, which explains
why the majority are on fixed-term contracts. In the current strike in
Canada, Vale has hired strikebreakers and required its other workers to do
the work of the strikers. The New Democratic Party (NDP) sought
unsuccessfully in the Ontario legislature, with the applause of strikers
in the visitors' gallery, who were expelled, to present anti-scab
legislation like that in Quebec. The NDP, a social-liberal party linked to
the trade-union movement, is the most left-wing party in the Ontario
legislature. It divides the northern and northeastern seats, which are
very blue-collar, especially outside the few major urban areas, with the
governing Liberals, although it has only 10 out of the province's 107

The relative isolation of the strikers from the major metropolitan centers
in the south of the province has not facilitated efforts to build
solidarity. However, it is worth noting the solidarity of other
Steelworkers locals and the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public
Employees (CUPE), known for its vanguard role in the boycott, divestment
and sanctions campaign in support of Palestine, and for its municipal
worker locals in Toronto and Windsor, which waged hard-fought strikes this
summer to fend off concessions demanded by the municipal authorities
including the so-called progressive city council in Toronto. These
politicians sought to benefit from the crisis in the automobile, steel and
financial industries that has hit hard at the Ontario economy, which
accounts for 40% of the Canadian GNP. It is no accident that the conflict
at Vale Inco began this summer while these major strikes were taking

Nevertheless, this solidarity consists at best in visits by a few leaders,
sometimes with cheques in support, and the mobilization of limited pockets
of militants when strikers visit Toronto, for example to agitate at
Queen's Park, the site of the Ontario legislature, or to respond to the
invitation of the iconoclastic film director Michael Moore when he was in
Toronto for the premiere of Capitalism: A Love Story. Until quite recently
the international mobilization has remained quite modest: letters of
support from unions in less than a dozen countries and tours in Germany
and Sweden accompanied by international leaders to convince certain
companies not to import nickel ore from Vale. Even the big rally in late
September with international guests, including the president of the CUT,
the major Brazilian trade-union central, drew only 3,000 persons, slightly
less than the total number of strikers in Sudbury.

A possible turning-point in October

It appears, however, that things took a turn for the better in October.
The women's strike support committee, which played such an important role
in the very militant nine-month strike in 1978-79, was re-established with
the help of former activists. Working with the recently constituted
support committee, it will be organizing a series of family activities in
November. The Ukrainian community in the region has also become involved.
The spirit of 1978-79 could be regained. There appear to be some changes
as well in terms of international solidarity. In addition to the trip to
New York, a small delegation has returned from Australia, where Vale
purchased several coal mines in 2007, and New Caledonia, where Vale Inco
will soon open a new nickel mine. Dozens of Australian miners expressed
their sympathy with the delegation, as did their leaders. But their
contract terminates only in 2011.

In New Caledonia, there was remarkable media coverage and a warm reception
from the Kanak elected representatives. The Kanaks are the first nation in
this French colony, although they now make up only 45% of the total
population. Did the Kanaks sense they had a lot in common with the
Franco-Ontarians in the delegation - two nationalities suffering
oppression of their language, their economic conditions and their lack of
territorial autonomy? Oddly enough, the Steelworkers web site devoted to
this conflict, from which most of the information in this article is
derived, is bilingual - in English and Brazilian Portuguese. And the
publication materials are English-only. But the Sudbury region itself is
strongly Francophone, and is not far from the Quebec border. Will this
uniform and formal unity strengthen the capacity for mass mobilization? Is
this the best way to build a pan-Canadian movement? Internationalism, to
be effective, must begin at home.

It is in Brazil, Vale's economic base by far, where the situation is most
promising. The miners in the company's largest Brazilian mine, and two
other mines, staged a two-day strike, October 26-27, around their own
demands. A few days later, at two other mines affiliated with the smallest
union central, Conlutas, which is known for its militancy, the bargaining
committee symbolically invited the woman representing the Canadian
steelworkers to be part of their bargaining team, to the anger of the
employer's negotiators who threatened to break off the talks. And 700
workers in these two mines signed a letter to the company calling on it to
settle the strike in Canada, where negotiations have not resumed since the
strike began. In a release issued November 4, the union's leaders said:

"Vale fears more than just the possibility of victory in the strike by
Canadian brothers and sisters, a possibility strengthened by this gesture
of solidarity. It also fears the growing international unity which is
being built among Vale workers and also people in communities around the
world where Vale's profits have resulted in environmental disasters,
degradation of the natural environment and community disintegration."

Internationalist optimism and bureaucratic contradiction

This optimism is justified. But so far the development of international
links has been primarily at the initiative of the union bureaucracies.
Their willingness to develop an internationalist response should not be
under-estimated. They have been caught off guard by this strike and the
membership's willingness to take on a powerful transnational corporation
capable of holding out through even a militant strike as long as the
workers are isolated. They realize that the usual bureaucratic methods of
bargaining supported by a national strike limited to picketing and
controlled from above will inevitably result in some setbacks. When the
union ranks hesitate to fight back in the face of a difficult objective
situation, as in the automobile industry, the leaderships can force
through some concessions. But there may be a high price to pay in terms of
credibility once the threshold of an unlimited strike has been crossed. To
defeat Vale, there must be a certain degree of international coordination
in strikes, except perhaps in Brazil, where a national inter-union
coordination might suffice.

The need for the union bureaucracy to mobilize the ranks to some degree,
or to let them mobilize themselves without too many impediments, opens the
door to self-organization. Has the women's committee given the cue? The
need to develop international links and an openness toward working-class
internationalism, particularly with the Brazilian unions, forces the
bureaucrats to restrain any temptation to engage in the kind of chauvinist
language characteristic of a small imperialist power that we hear so often
in Canada - "defending our middle-class, anti-ecology status" while
allowing Vale to chip away at the wage scales and working conditions of
its employees elsewhere.

The Steelworkers are styled an "international" union, although they have
locals only in the USA and Canada. So when the "international" president
of the union called for nationalization of Vale at the big strike support
rally in late September, to the standing ovation of the strikers, there
was a note of ambiguity. If nationalization means a takeover by the
capitalist state in order to escape Brazilian living conditions, that is a
setback for internationalism - and an economic illusion, for the nickel
market is worldwide. A state corporation would do as Vale does. However,
nationalization can signify the first step in the takeover by the workers
collectively, as the Zanon workers took over their plant in Argentina.[2]
The self-managed collective would confront the state with the need to
provide financing, technical assistance and guarantees of international
markets, if not conversion of the company and retraining of the workers.
It would make the undertaking an integral part of the community, and in
the case of a firm that is intrinsically an exporter, would also link with
the workers in client and competitor firms abroad in support of their
demands and their struggles, within a perspective of collaboration for
joint marketing in the context of a levelling upward of living conditions.
It would be a first step toward internationalist self-management.

Irrespective of whether it goes forward or is worn down, this strike
against Vale gives some idea of what the strike movement will be like in
the 21st century. Global strikes against transnational corporations will
be an essential pillar of internationalism. They are just beginning.

Marc Bonhomme is an economist and member of Québec solidaire. Translated
from the original French by Richard Fidler.


1. Retranslated from the French.

2. A strike made famous by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis in their film The
Take. For recent coverage of the Zanon struggle, see "Zanon workers win
major legal battle"


The web site of the Vale Inco families and community members may be
accessed at

Bullet #253: Down in the Vale, by Petra Veltri

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Bus strikes in East London

Nov 9 2009

Bus drivers and engineers in East London walked out today in a 24-hour
action which stopped around 750 buses and either froze or disrupted 58

The East London Bus Company employs 2,600 workers, of which all but 200
are members of the Unite Union. The union balloted its members after the
company imposed a pay freeze on its staff, claiming the recession had
forced their hand. The vote was in favour of strike action by 84%. Drivers
and engineers working out of Barking, Bow, Leyton, Romford, Upton Park and
West Ham bus garages took part in the walkout.

Though company bosses are claiming that the recession is forcing them to
impose pay freezes on staff, the East London Bus Company is owned by the
Macquarie investment bank, which openly expects to make significant
profits this year, 10% above those of the previous year. The bank has
remained profitable throughout the financial crisis.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Capital Medical Center Workers to picket hospital today

Nov. 7, 2009 Olympian

OLYMPIA – Unionized workers at Capital Medical Center will stage an
informational picket today to call attention to their negotiations to
improve wages and benefits for about 150 employees at the hospital.

The office, housekeeping, maintenance, radiology lab and other workers are
represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21, spokesman
Tom Geiger said.

Unlike a strike, in which workers walk off the job – as they did at
Providence St. Peter Hospital last month – the workers at Capital will
picket before or after a shift or during a break or lunch hour, he said.

The picket is set for noon to 2 p.m. outside Capital Medical Center, at
3900 Capital Mall Blvd. S.W. About 100 workers are expected to
participate, Geiger said.

At issue is improving wages and benefits as part of a new, three-year
contract for the workers. The most recent contract expired in September,
and more than seven bargaining sessions have been held since August, said
Chuck Ardingo, lead negotiator for the union.

Some wages for positions at Capital Medical Center are below industry
standards, and the health care plan is expensive for employees if it's for
a service that the hospital doesn't offer and they have to go elsewhere,
Ardingo said.

He acknowledged the slower economy and said the union is open to
incremental wage increases over the life of the contract, wages he hopes
can be based on Western Washington data rather than the data the hospital

"They want to retain control of the wage analysis," Ardingo said about the

Hospital officials said in a statement Friday that they're committed to

"Our negotiations with Local 21 continue next week, and we are confident
that we will ultimately reach agreement on a contract that serves the
interest of all parties," the statement reads.

Radiology technician Gina Arland, a member of the bargaining team, said
the workers pay at a higher rate with a much higher deductible if they go
elsewhere for health care needs.

"Our biggest complaint is that it penalizes us if we don't get it done at
Capital Medical Center," Arland said.

Ardingo added that privacy also is an issue. Some workers would rather see
a doctor they don't work with, he said.

Arland said she has worked at the hospital for six years and makes about
$26 an hour – "pretty much at market rate," she said. Other workers are
well below market rate, such as the endoscopy technicians who work with
gastrointestinal disorders, she said. Arland thinks their wages are $5 to
$7 an hour lower than where they should be.

"We want them to take their profits and reinvest it in the community, and
adequate market wages would be a great way to do this," she said about the
hospital and its parent company, Capella Healthcare of Tennessee.

Friday, November 06, 2009

[olympiaworkers] France: The paperlesses workers at ISS fight for their papers.

by CNT-F Cleaning union 06 Nov 2009

More than 2000 paperless workers for the cleaning firm have gone on
strike; occupying 30 sites in the Ile-de-France region. they are doing so
with the support of unions and other groups who have joined with them to
denounce the exploitation of undocumented workers and the arbitrary way in
which their cases are heard by local prefectures.

After having occupied the Cité des sciences in Paris on Sunday 18th
October the workers then took over the headquarters of the company in
Paris' 12th district (3 rue des meuniers) ISS is a cleaning sub-contractor
and one of the leading 'multiservice' companies and has already seen it's
offices occupied earlier this month. The company has never respected
agreements and has fired undocumented workers after having exploited them
for years.

undocumented workers are found in great numbers and are indispensable in
many sectors such as construction, public works, cleaning, security,
catering, care work, agriculture, baking, etc. The majority pay their
taxes and welfare contributions to health, retirement and unemployment
funds. they don't take jobs away from anyone else and they are often
forced to work in terrible conditions due to their legal status.

Papers for all paperless workers, it's good for everybody!

CNT Cleaning union.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Three dead in garment workers' clashes - unions promised new role Nov 4 2009

The latest clashes in the highly charged arena of the Bangladeshi garment

Tongi, an industrial city located 15 miles (24 km) north of Dhaka; early
last Saturday morning (31st Oct) several hundred workers turned up at the
gates of the Nippon Garment Factory at Ershad Nagar - expecting to work
and to receive wage arrears owed them. Instead they found police blocking
the entrance - and posted on the gates a note informing them that the
factory was shut from October 31 to November 29 because of "global
recession and some unwanted incidents". The notice also asked workers to
collect their overdue wages from the factory office on November 10 -
though the arrears were 3 months late and workers had been promised
payment would be made that day.

Infuriated, the mainly female workers then tried to force their way into
the factory - leading to scuffles and, eventually, baton charges by
police. (Expecting trouble, the factory bosses had requested police be
stationed inside the premises on Friday night.)

As more workers and locals from the surrounding slum areas joined the
protest the crowd grew to several thousand and moved to block the main
Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway. The road remained blocked for the next 5 hours
as the area became a battleground. A bus was set alight, several other
vehicles burned and as the fighting intensified hundreds of police and
para-military law enforcement personnel poured into the area. Police began
firing gunshots and teargas shells while workers responded with bricks and

""The law-enforcers had to fire rubber bullets from shotguns to disperse
the workers who hurled stones and bricks at our officers," Inspector
Shafiqul Alam said". Three people were shot dead by cops, with 100 others
injured, several with bullet wounds. Included in the casualties were 16
policemen (one in a critical condition). News footage shows police
shooting indiscriminately into buildings. Workers and locals reported that
police ransacked homes and small shops in the area. By 11.30am an
increased security presence reduced the disturbances - but periodic
clashes continued into the afternoon as news of the deaths spread
alongside claims by workers of seeing police hiding and removing other

Nine of the injured were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital,
clinic official Abdul Baten told AFP.

"All of the injured have wounds caused by live ammunition and some are
in serious condition," he said.

Police insisted, however, they used only rubber bullets to quell the
unrest. (World News Australia - 1 Nov 09)

Despite the deaths at police hands it has been reported that "...the
police had lodged cases not only against thousands of people, including
workers and some residents of the adjacent areas, but also against those
who have died in police firing..." (New Age - Nov 3 09) So perhaps the
dead will be prosecuted along with the living.

A police chief said on the day; "The situation was totally unexpected. If
the owner of the garment factory had a discussion with the workers before
closing it, this incident might have been avoided." But the next day he
oddly claimed that many protesters wore lungi (a skirt-like garment more
suitable than trousers in warmer climates) so they must be outside
agitators, even though the lungi is a commonly worn garment for
Bangladeshi men (but news footage anyway contradicts his claim). He added
"I've never heard of garment workers using [Molotov] cocktails and
firearms in clashes. It seems to me that outsiders instigated it." (ATN
News, Bangladesh). If Molotovs and firearms really were used by workers it
might indeed be a sign of a sharp escalation/upping the stakes of their
struggles. But the police chief is the only source to claim this and no
cops were shot, so this dubious claim is probably an attempt to justify
the police shootings. The claim that "The situation was totally
unexpected" is also false - cops were already deployed in and around the
factory on the previous evening.

Similarly, the claims of unrest being organised by "outsiders" are routine
statements always wheeled out on such occasions - both to try and downplay
the self-organising abilities of workers and to justify greater resources
and repressive powers for the cops to hunt down the supposed conspirators.
Despite being referenced and blamed for decades, none of these outside
agitators have ever been caught or proved to exist. Such claims are also
often thinly veiled nationalistic references playing on fears of big
brother neighbour India, or refer to native Islamic fundamentalists
desiring to destabilise a state too secular for their liking, or to the
main opposition BNP party. Some political rivals of the ruling party may
indeed be happy to see the disturbances embarass their opponents, but they
certainly don't control them.

That the police knew well enough that trouble was brewing is further
illustrated by a leaked intelligence report; an intelligence agency
alerted the government a week previously;

The Special Branch of police in its report submitted to the home
ministry put forward a four-point recommendation to avert the unrest.
The recommendations were facilitating reopening of the factories and
reinstating the sacked workers. Moreover, ensuring payment of salaries
and wages of the workers from BGMEA funds and deploying adequate
police force as well as increasing intelligence vigilance were also
The report stated that fear of unrest was looming at the entire RMG
sector due to "tyranny" and "non-cooperation" by some factory owners.
It added owners of three factories did not become sympathetic to their
workers even after the latter staged demonstrations and formed human
chains to press home their demands.
As their salary and wages were not paid, these workers were passing a
miserable life without paying their house rents and dues at grocery
shops, said the report. It added already different labour unions were
keeping close contacts with those workers.
The intelligence agency also mentioned that more than 2,000 workers of
three factories who were sacked by the authorities have been demanding
their salary, wages and arrears for the last few weeks.
These three RMG factories have shut their offices without paying
wages, salaries and arrears of the workers, said the report.
It was suspected that the sacked and unemployed workers along with
their colleagues at different factories at the instigation of some
labour leaders might launch a massive demonstration any time, the
report gave the alert. (Daily Star - 1 Nov 09)


Fazlul Haque, head of the 1,300-member Bangladesh Knitwear
Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the global slowdown had
forced many factories in the country to lay off workers or shut down.
"Western retailers who are our top buyers have cut orders and squeezed
prices. The big factories have somehow coped, but most of the small-
and medium-sized factories are facing very tough times," he said.
In the first two months of the financial year to August 2010, overseas
shipments fell by three percent.
Unions said factories have cut wages to compete for orders with other
apparel-producers, such as Vietnam, China and India. (World News
Australia - 1 Nov 09)

This is only the latest in a series of violent clashes in the garment
sector. It was a decline in orders that prompted the Nippon Garment bosses
in this case to refuse payment to workers; as the recession and
intensified market competition has hit employers they have been even more
reluctant than usual to pay workers on time. This leaves workers and their
dependents in dire straits, unable to pay rent or pay off debts at local
grocery shops who advance credit to workers. For garment workers - many of
whom are permanently malnourished - a missed wage packet is often a short
step away from real hunger.

Garment industries thrive in poorer countries due largely to low labour
costs and low start-up costs. But now those larger firms who are
weathering the financial crisis better and with sufficient capital
reserves have begun switching to more automated production systems, using
computer technology to increase efficiency in cutting, knitting, dyeing
and finishing;

Viyellatex Group is the country's first garments factory that has
implemented the expensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution
from SAP Germany, said Group Chairman KM Rezaul Hasanat.
Some multinationals and other local business houses now adopt the ERP
solution, but in the garments sector Viyellatex Group is using it,
Hasanat pointed out.
"Viyellatex Group is one of the leading factories worldwide which is
using ERP from SAP. The group implemented the ERP in its Gazipur based
factory in December last year at a cost of $2million," Hasanat added.
"I save time and wastage in my factory in almost all the sections. I
can know the on-time production by one click alone," the Viyellatex
boss said.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shahadat Hossain Kiron, managing director
of Dekko Group, one of the leading apparel makers, said he plans to
install the SAP software to bring efficiency at all levels.
He said currently almost all modern factories are setting aside their
traditional methods and adopting automated systems. "Efficiency in
cutting, knitting, dyeing and finishing has been attained because of
the application of these technologies," Kiron said. (Daily Star - May
7 2009)

These innovations are necessary to maintain competition with Asian RMG
competitors such as Vietnam, Cambodia, China and India. But in the present
climate this trend may be another factor increasing unemployment levels.
(A recent report optimistically sees the growth of a domestic Asian
consumer market as a way out of recession for Asian garment producers,
based largely on the increasing consumption of the new middle classes that
have emerged as a result of industrial development in Asia. But this
market is, for the foreseeable future, not even close to being able to
compensate for or replace the global export markets.[1])

Enter the unions?
"The government will not tolerate anarchism in garment sector as this is
the main source of foreign currency." - Prime Minister Hasina. (Daily Star
- Nov 3 09)

The Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector employs around 3 million workers
directly - at least 80% female - and 2 million in its subsidiary
industries (transport, supplies etc.). Some 7 million people are dependent
on the earnings of these workers. Over 75 per cent of the country's
foreign currency comes from RMG exports. This narrow economic dependency
on one industry (the other main foreign currency earner is remittance -
money sent home by migrant workers) makes Bangladesh particularly
vulnerable to disruption of supply - especially as many contracts are
dependent on tight turnaround/delivery times. So labour conflict in the
RMG sector has far-reaching socio-economic consequences, particularly at a
time when regional competition for a share of shrinking international
markets is fierce.

Drawing attention of the apparel industries' owners to a stark
disparity, the prime minister said in many cases, the money spent on a
day's shopping by an owner was more than the monthly salary of a
garment worker.
'We do not expect such a reality. One thing you (owners) have to keep
in mind that by oppressing the workers and depriving them, no industry
can sustain,' Hasina said. (New Age - Nov 3 09)

There has long been a conflict of interest within the Bangladeshi ruling
class on RMG labour relations. A substantial number of MPs in both main
parties, the ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladeshi National
Party, have business interests in the RMG sector - as investors or factory
owners. Since the emergence of the industry in the early 1980s they have,
despite recurring labour unrest, seen the profits roll in as markets
expanded and have seen little need to concede any major concessions in the
form of wage rises, working conditions or union representation. But the
more far-sighted of the ruling class, aware of the potential vulnerability
of the industry (and often with less immediate business interests to
protect), have long called for wide-spread trade union representation to
be introduced as a stabilising institutional influence. If workers are
paid less than the cost of their own self-reproduction something
eventually has to give. The explosive anger of RMG workers is clearly
expressed in recent news footage as they describe the hardships they
endure and how they are cheated out of what are already some of the lowest
wages in the world.

The unions have themselves admitted that their influence among RMG workers
is marginal and that they have little or no influence over the regular
disturbances; they have often functioned more like NGO's, providing
charitable and legal services, international lobbying etc rather than
actual negotiation/mediation of workplace conflicts between workers and
bosses. (In fact some union-type organisations were set up by western
NGO's - and NGO's have sometimes themselves taken on certain union-type
functions.) But all this may be about to change. In the aftermath of the
Tongi clashes and similar recent unrest, the government has announced it
will introduce trade unions in the garment sector.

The class struggle and the forms it takes has developed largely
autonomously in the industry, with little institutional mediation. This
has contributed to the intensity and explosive character of garment
workers' struggles; and as the economic recession forces further attacks
on working class living conditions and workers with little left to lose
express greater fury, it is this that the ruling class seek to contain
with the introduction of trade unions. If the union reform is implemented,
will it work? Certainly the institutionalising of certain health and
safety measures (deaths in factory fires are common, as are many
occupational illnesses) as well as legal powers to enforce a living wage
that is actually regularly paid would be popular among workers. But this
depends on the garment bosses and the state showing a willingness to both
grant reforms and then actually enforce them - which has never been the
case so far. Promises have repeatedly been broken on these issues - and if
there are no concessions on offer to win through union negotiation on
behalf of workers, then unions will remain as largely irrelevant as they
are today. (Another factor is that unions have often been as corrupt as
most other political institutions in Bangladesh and have often been merely
instruments of the political goals of one of the main political parties.)
The unions have to try to establish credibility and take representative
control of a workforce that has, over the past 25 years, shown itself
consistently capable of a high level of self-organisation and solidarity.
It is possible that the well-established current forms of mass struggle -
regular wildcat strikes that then picket out neighbouring factories,
roadblocks, riots and attacks on bosses' property - will prove hard to


[1] Asian textiles surge back
ASIAN textiles, once considered a fading industry, are now showing strong
growth prospects mainly due to demand from expanding middle classes,
according to a recent AFP news agency report from Singapore. Development
of 'latest technology' in this regard is also attributed for the growing
success of the Asian textiles sector. Known in the past as back-alley
shops churning out cheap material, many Asian firms are shedding their
sweatshop image as they move to compete in the global market. Stricter
environmental standards required by Western countries are also prompting
consolidation and innovation in the industry, according to one of the
world's top suppliers of textile dyes and chemicals.

One year after the global financial crisis exploded, Asian economies are
rebounding faster than the West, boosting the textile industry's hopes.
The Asian Development Bank recently upgraded its forecast for the region's
2009 economic growth to 3.9 per cent. China is forecast to grow 8.2 per
cent this year and 8.9 per cent in 2010. The market is changing, customer
taste and demand are also changing-as spectacularly visible from increased
spending power in the Chinese provinces. In business, the future is in
Asia and it is going to be driven from Asia, not from Europe and America,
the media report said.

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China are the world's top textile
producers as well as major consumers. Apart from apparel, a major driver
for the industry is the demand for what is called 'technical textiles' or
fabrics used in cars, mattress covers, bags, tents and parachutes, among
others. As Asia's spending power grows, people want to buy different
products and that is going to lead to the development of a whole new
market for technical textiles which, in fact, did not exist before. (The
New Nation - Nov 3 09)

[olympiaworkers] Leadership Workshop for Unionists of Color

There is still time to register for the:

Leadership Development Workshop for Trade Unionists of Color

Change is Inevitable. Get Ready to Lead!

Saturday, November 7, 2009
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
South Seattle Community College at Georgetown
6737 Corson Ave S, Seattle 98108
Building C Conference Room
(located right off the Corson Avenue entrance by the flagpole)
Cost:$75 per participant
(includes lunch and materials)

Our workforce and our labor movement are made up of many different faces and we are strongest when we speak with one voice. To rebuild our strength, the labor movement must embrace and reflect the diversity of our workforce and our membership. We must provide our members with the leadership skills to restore opportunity and justice at our workplaces and in society.

To this end, the Diversity Committee of the Washington State Labor Council and the Labor Education and Research Center invite all WSLC-affiliated unions to send rank-and-file and staff members to this workshop.

Come learn about the political economy of Washington state, changing workforce demographics, leadership qualities and skills, lessons from state labor history, and more!

To register or for more information contact Janet Hays:
Phone: 206-281-8901, or Toll free, 1-800 542-0904, Ext 13


From: "Triffleman, Nina" <>
Date: Tue, November 3, 2009

There is still time to register for the:

Leadership Development Workshop for Trade Unionists of Color

Change is Inevitable. Get Ready to Lead!

Saturday, November 7, 2009
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
South Seattle Community College at Georgetown
6737 Corson Ave S, Seattle 98108
Building C Conference Room
(located right off the Corson Avenue entrance by the flagpole)
Cost:$75 per participant
(includes lunch and materials)

Our workforce and our labor movement are made up of many different faces
and we are strongest when we speak with one voice. To rebuild our
strength, the labor movement must embrace and reflect the diversity of
our workforce and our membership. We must provide our members with the
leadership skills to restore opportunity and justice at our workplaces
and in society.

To this end, the Diversity Committee of the Washington State Labor
Council and the Labor Education and Research Center invite all
WSLC-affiliated unions to send rank-and-file and staff members to this

Come learn about the political economy of Washington state, changing
workforce demographics, leadership qualities and skills, lessons from
state labor history, and more!

To register or for more information contact Janet Hays:
Phone: 206-281-8901, or Toll free, 1-800 542-0904, Ext 13

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Peiraeus dockworkers resume strikes Nov. 2, 2009

Peiraeus dockworkers have resumed striking against the sell out of the
largest pier of Greece's main harbour to COSCO after negotiations

The Peiraeus dockworkers of Pier II of Greece's main commercial harbour
have called a 48h strike starting Tuesday 3 November, thus resuming the
industrial action that had seen sea commerce freeze for more than two
weeks in early October.

According to the dockworkers, the strike comes as a result of the Minister
of the Economy, Ms Katseli's failure to guarantee a negotiation of wages,
work positions and social security benefits based on the collective
contract of the workers with the State, now leasing the harbour to COSCO.
Ms Katseli has promised to try to improve the conditions of the collective
contract with COSCO, a thing deemed unacceptable by the workers.Workers'
representatives have stressed that it is absurd for the government to sell
out one of the most profitable businesses of the public sector, accusing
the last government management of the harbour, responsible for handing it
over to COSCO, of gross economic mismanagement.

The development has come as a serious blow to the new Socialist government
which had gloated of solving the dispute peacefully. The leadership of the
governing party, PaSoK, is also worried about the political impact of the
strike, as OMYLE, one of the big dockworkers unions calling it, is
controlled by its own umbrella union, thus signaling the first
base-of-the-Party revolt against the administration. Ms Katseli has
declared that she fails "to perceive the legitimacy of the strike".