The Tomatoes of Wrath September 26, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Human Rights, Immigration, Labor.
Tags: agricultural industry, agricultural workers, agriculture, chris hedges, ciw, collective bargaining, fair food, farmworkers, fieldworkers, florida labor, florida tomatoes, immigrant workers, immokalee, labor, labor standards, publix, roger hollander, slave labor, trader joe's, whole foods
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It is 6 a.m. in the parking lot outside the La Fiesta supermarket in Immokalee, Fla. Rodrigo Ortiz, a 26-year-old farmworker, waits forlornly in the half light for work in the tomato fields. White-painted school buses with logos such as “P. Cardenas Harvesting” are slowly filling with fieldworkers. Knots of men and a few women, speaking softly in Spanish and Creole, are clustered on the asphalt or seated at a few picnic tables waiting for crew leaders to herd them onto the buses, some of which will travel two hours to fields. Roosters are crowing as the first light of dawn rises over the cacophony. Men shovel ice into 10-gallon plastic containers from an ice maker next to the supermarket, which opens at 3:30 a.m. to sell tacos and other food to the workers. The containers—which they lug to pickup trucks—provide water for the pickers in the sweltering, humid fields where temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above.
(Illustration by Mr. Fish)
Ortiz, a short man in a tattered baseball cap and soiled black pants that are too long and spill over the tops of his worn canvas sneakers, is not fortunate this day. By 7 a.m. the last buses leave without him. He heads back to the overcrowded trailer he shares with several other men. There are always workers left behind at these predawn pickup sites where hundreds congregate in the hopes of getting work. Nearly 90 percent of the workers are young, single immigrant men, and at least half lack proper documents or authorization to work in the United States.
Harvesting tomatoes is an endeavor that comes with erratic and unpredictable hours, weeks with overtime and weeks with little to do and no guarantees about wages. Once it starts to rain, workers are packed back onto the buses and sent home, their workday abruptly at an end. Ortiz and the other laborers congregate at the pickup points every morning never sure if there will be work. And when they do find daywork they are paid only for what they pick.
“I only had three days of work this week,” Ortiz says mournfully. “I don’t know how I will pay my rent.”
Ortiz, who along with many others among these migrant workers sends about $100 home to Mexico every month to support elderly parents, works under conditions in these fields that replicates medieval serfdom and at times descends into outright slavery. He lives far below the poverty line. He has no job security, no workers’ compensation, no disability insurance, no paid time off, no access to medical care, Social Security, Medicaid or food stamps and no protection from the abusive conditions in the fields. The agricultural industry has a death rate nearly six times higher than most other industries, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that of the 2 million farmworkers in the United States 300,000 suffer pesticide poisoning every year.
“We are standing on the threshold of achieving significant change in the agricultural industry,” Marc Rodrigues, with the Student/Farmworker Alliance, tells me later in the day at the CIW office in Immokalee. “But if the supermarkets do not participate and support it then it will not go any further. Their lack of participation threatens to undermine what the workers and their allies have accomplished. They represent a tremendous amount of tomato purchasing. They wield a lot of influence over conditions in the field. For those growers not enamored of the concept of workers attaining rights and being treated with dignity, they will know that there is always a market for their tomatoes with no questions asked, where nothing is governed by a code of conduct or transparency. If we succeed, this will help lift farmworkers, who do one of the most important, dangerous and undervalued jobs in our society, out of grinding poverty into one where they can have a slightly more decent and normal life and provide for their families.”
The next major mobilization in the campaign will take place at noon Oct. 21 outside Trader Joe’s corporate headquarters in Monrovia, Calif. This will follow a week of local actions to target supermarkets across the country. To thwart the campaign, the public relations departments of Trader Joe’s, Publix and other supermarkets are churning out lies and half truths, as well as engaging in unsettling acts of intimidation and surveillance. Publix sent out an employee posing as a documentary filmmaker to record the activities of the organizers.
“Publix has a cabal of labor relations, human relations and public relations employees who very frequently descend from corporate headquarters in Lakeland, Fla.—or one of their regional offices—and show up at our demonstrations,” says Rodrigues. “They watch us with or without cameras. They constantly attempt to deflect us: If we attempt to speak to consumers or store managers these people will intercept us and try to guide us away. These people in suits and ties come up to us and refer to us by our first names—as if they know us—in a sort of bizarre, naked attempt at intimidation.”
If you live in a community that has a Whole Foods, which is the only major supermarket chain to sign the agreement, shop there and send a letter to competing supermarkets telling them that you will not return as a customer until they too sign the CIW Fair Food Agreement. Details about planned protests around the country can be found on the CIW website.
Workers in the fields earn about 50 cents for picking a bucket containing 32 pounds of tomatoes. These workers make only $10,000 to $12,000 a year, much of which they send home. The $10,000-$12,000 range, because it includes the higher pay of supervisors, means the real wages of the pickers are usually less than $10,000 a year. Wages have remained stagnant since 1980. A worker must pick 2.25 tons of tomatoes to make minimum wage during one of the grueling 10-hour workdays. This is twice what they had to pick 30 years ago for the same amount of money. Most workers pick about 150 buckets a day. And these workers have been rendered powerless by law. In Florida, collective bargaining is illegal, one of the legacies of Jim Crow practices designed to keep blacks poor and disempowered. Today the ban on collective bargaining serves the same purpose in thwarting the organizing efforts of the some 30,000 Hispanic, Mayan and Haitian agricultural laborers who plant and harvest 30,000 acres of tomatoes.
The CIW, which organized a nationwide boycott in 2001 against Taco Bell, forced several major fast food chains including Yum Brands, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods Market, Compass Group, Bon Appétit Management Co., Aramark and Sodexo to sign the agreement, which demands more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and an increase of a penny per bucket. But if the major supermarkets too do not sign this agreement, growers who verbally, sexually and physically abuse workers will be able to continue selling tomatoes to the supermarkets. This could leave at least half of all the fields without protection, making uniform enforcement of the agreement throughout the fields difficult if not impossible.
“Supply chains are very opaque and secretive,” says Gerardo Reyes, a farmworker and CIW staff member. “This is one of the reasons a lot of these abuses continue. The corporations can always feign that they did not know the abuses were happening or that they had any responsibility for them as long as there is no transparency or accountability.”
One of the most celebrated modern cases of fieldworker slavery was uncovered in November 2007 after three workers escaped from a box truck in which they had been locked. They and 12 others had been held as slaves for two and a half years. They had to relieve themselves in a corner of the truck at night and pay five dollars if they wanted to bathe with a garden hose. They were routinely beaten. Some were chained to poles at times. During the days they worked on some of the largest farms in Florida. It was the seventh such documented case of slavery in a decade.
“As long as the supermarket industry refuses to sign this agreement it gives the growers an escape,” says Reyes. “We need to bring the pressure of more buyers who will sign the agreement to protect the workers. We have gotten all of the major corporations within the fast food industry and food providers to sign this agreement. Two of the three most important buyers within the industry are on board. But if these supermarkets continue to hold out they can put all the mechanisms we have set in place for control at risk. If Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s and other supermarkets say the only criteria is buying from those growers who offer the lowest possible price then we will not be able to curb abuses. If the agreement is in place and there is another case of slavery then the growers will be put in a penalty box. If we do not have the ability to impose penalties then there will always be a way for abusive growers to sell. The agreement calls on these corporations to stop buying from growers, for example, that use slave labor. Without the agreement there is no check on these practices.”
“Supermarkets, such as Trader Joe’s, insist they are responsible and fair,” Reyes goes on. “They use their public relations to present themselves as a good corporation. They sell this idea of fairness, this disguise. They use this more sophisticated public relations campaign, one that presents them as a friend of workers, while at the same time locking workers out of the discussion and kicking us out of the room. They want business as usual. They do not want people to question how their profits are created. We have to fight not only them but this sophisticated public relations tactic. We are on the verge of a systemic change, but corporations like Trader Joe’s are using all their power to push us back.”
Members and supporters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will march from a Trader Joe’s store at 604 W. Huntington Dr. in Monrovia, Calif., to the market chain’s headquarter a mile away, starting at noon Oct. 21. The farmworkers organization is demanding that Trader Joe’s support the human rights of the men and women who harvest tomatoes sold in its stores. For more information, click here, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (510) 725-8752 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 725-8752 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Labour bargains with a gun at its head — again September 20, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
Tags: air canada union, anti-union, Canada, canada labor, Canada labour, Canada NDP, canadaq tories, collective bargaining, flight attendant union, labor, labour, lisa raitt, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tim harper, unions, workers rights
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Lisa Raitt’s talking points included two reasons for threatening to legislate Air Canada flight attendants back to work before they had a chance to put their tray tables in the upright position.
The labour minister said the Conservatives will intervene whenever they see a labour disruption having a significant effect on the economy or the general public.
She didn’t mention two other reasons.
First, the Harper Conservatives are micromanaging labour disputes in this country because ideologically they are delighted to put unionized workers in their place.
And they are doing it because no one can stop them.
The government’s latest move to usurp bargaining rights in this country was as certain as leaves in Ottawa changing colour in September.
Even the president of the union representing 6,800 flight attendants told his membership in August that the Harper government had them over the barrel when he urged ratification of an earlier agreement.
In a Ground Hog day moment, the last parliamentary session ended in June with an NDP filibuster over the government’s back-to-work order to postal workers and the fall session began with a threatened NDP filibuster over the government’s back-to-work order to flight attendants.
But the party, now in the hands of interim leader Nycole Turmel, seemed uncertain how to react to this latest affront to workers, and tried to stay away from the matter Tuesday.
Like a hanging in the morning, the threat of back-to-work legislation tends to focus the mind and eliminate posturing at the bargaining table.
The Conservatives will doubtless point to Tuesday’s settlement as evidence of its good work.
But the government has offered no parameters on what constitutes an economic threat to the country or significant inconvenience for the Canadian public.
That should concern workers everywhere in this country because by using criteria so broadly sketched no one can be certain that their hard-won bargaining rights will be respected.
This was a private company in which both management and union appeared to be negotiating in good faith without the long, meddling reach of the federal government.
In an August memo recommending ratification, Jeff Taylor, the president of the CUPE Air Canada component, bluntly told his members “the Conservative government will not let us go on strike.’’
He argued for acceptance because they were facing a government “that would rather enforce back-to-work legislation than allow your union to strike.’’
He was right.
Had the flight attendants jumped off the cliff into a strike situation, they risked losing even more.
As they did with the postal workers, the Harper Conservatives were prepared to enshrine an offer in the legislation that was less rich than that offered by the airline.
Raitt has been quick in the past to point how rarely back-to-work legislation has been used in this country and how extraordinary such a measure would be.
It is extraordinary no more.
The last three major potential labour disruptions — none of which resulted in a full-blown strike — have been met with legislative threats or action from Raitt, a self-styled friend of labour and daughter of a union organizer.
Air Canada says its flight attendants are the best paid in the country.
They had offered the workers a 12 per cent hike over five years (they accepted nine per cent over four), with defined-benefit pensions.
They point out that there are 25 applicants for every job opening and say once hired, flight attendants tend to stay until retirement.
The attendants counter they must be better compensated because they must be bilingual, must familiarize themselves with more aircraft than flight attendants on other airlines, and must undertake more long haul flights with shorter layovers.
That sigh of relief heard midday Tuesday came from air travellers and the NDP caucus.
While the travellers can take to the air with confidence, it is clear the post-Jack Layton NDP is still trying to find its wings.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Tags: activism, activists, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, anti-war, bill quigley, Blackwater, bradley manning, collective bargaining, cutbacks, democracy, Guantanamo, immigratin, injustice, Iraq war, nuclear resister, nuclear weapons, police brutality, political protest, protest, resistance, roger hollander, torture
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Roger’s note: Just prior to posting the article below about those arrested for protesting various areas of injustice, I had posted an article entitled “Too Big to Jail,” an article decrying the fact that no one has been arrested or jailed for the economic crimes committed by various sectors of the banking and finance community, which lead to thousands of Americans losing their homes. This juxtaposition (justaposition?) was not planned, it just happened.
Since President Obama was inaugurated, there have been over two thousand six hundred arrests of activists protesting in the US. Research shows over 670 people have been arrested in protests inside the US already in 2011, over 1290 were arrested in 2010, and 665 arrested in 2009. These figures are certainly underestimate the number actually arrested as arrests in US protests are rarely covered by the mainstream media outlets which focus so intently on arrests of protestors in other countries.
Daniel Ellsberg flashes a pair of peace signs as he’s led away by capitol police on December 16, 2010.
One hundred thirty one protestors, including numerous veterans, gathered in the snow outside the White House challenging the war in Afghanistan. (CommonDreams)
Arrests at protest have been increasing each year since 2009. Those arrested include people protesting US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo, strip mining, home foreclosures, nuclear weapons, immigration policies, police brutality, mistreatment of hotel workers, budget cutbacks, Blackwater, the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, and right wing efforts to cut back collective bargaining.
These arrests illustrate that resistance to the injustices in and committed by the US is alive and well. Certainly there could and should be more, but it is important to recognize that people are fighting back against injustice.
Information on these arrests has been taken primarily from the newsletter The Nuclear Resister, which has been publishing reports of anti-nuclear resistance arrests since 1980, and anti-war actions since 1990.
Jack Cohen-Joppa, who with his partner Felice, edits The Nuclear Resister, told me “Over the last three decades, in the course of chronicling more than 100,000 arrests for nonviolent protest and resistance to nuclear power, nuclear weapons, torture, and war, we’ve noted a quadrennial decline as support for protest and resistance gets swallowed up by Presidential politicking. It has taken a couple of years, but the Hopeium addicts of 2008 are finally getting into recovery. We’re again reporting a steady if slow rise in the numbers willing to risk arrest and imprisonment for acts of civil resistance. Today, for instance, there are more Americans serving time in prison for nuclear weapons protest than at any time in more than a decade.”
In the list below I give the date of the protest arrest and a brief summary of the reason for the protest. After each date I have included the name of the organization which sponsored the protest. Check them out. Remember, they can jail the resisters but they cannot jail the resistance!
January 1, 2011. Nine women, ages 40 to 91, who brought solar panels to the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor were arrested for blocking the driveway at Entergy Corporation. Shut It Down.
January 5, 2011 and February 2, 2011. Five arrests were made of peace activists protesting at Vandenberg Air Force base, including a veteran of WWII. Vandenberg Witness.
January 11, 2011. Ten people protesting against the continued human rights violation of Guantanamo prison trying to deliver a letter to a federal judge were arrested at the federal building in Chicago, Illinois.
January 11, 2011. A sixty one year old grandmother protesting against excessive radiation was arrested for blocking the path of a utility truck in Sonoma County, California.
January 15, 2011. Twelve people protesting against Trident nuclear weapons at the Kitsap-Bangor naval base outside of Seattle, Washington were arrested – six on state charges of blocking the highway and six others on federal charges of trespass for crossing onto the base. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
January 17, 2011. Marking the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, people protested outside the Lockheed Martin Valley Forge Pennsylvania office where eight people were arrested. Brandywine Peace Community.
January 17, 2011. Three people protesting the US use of armed drones and depleted uranium were arrested at the Davis-Monthan air force base near Tucson Arizona.
January 29, 2011. Eight peace activists marking the 60th anniversary of the testing of the atom bomb were arrested at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Nevada Desert Experience.
February 10, 2011. Twenty three hotel workers were arrested after protesting management abuses at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. UNITE Here Local 2.
February 15, 2011. A former CIA agent turned whistleblower was arrested and battered by police for standing silently and turning his back during a speech on the need for human rights in Egypt delivered by the US Secretary of State. Veterans for Peace.
February 17, 2011. Nine people protesting against the attack on collective bargaining in Wisconsin were arrested at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.
February 25, 2011. Eleven people protesting federal budget cuts against the poor, including one person in a wheelchair were arrested charged with blocking traffic in Chicago.
March 4, 2011. Three people were arrested in Seattle after a protest against police abuse.
March 4, 2011. Sixteen people were arrested at a protest against tuition increases at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
March 10, 2011. Fifty people protesting the removal of collective bargaining rights were arrested after being carried out of the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.
March 16, 2011. Seven union supporters protesting proposals to strip collective bargaining from teachers were arrested in Nashville Tennessee.
March 19, 2011. One hundred thirteen people protesting the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq, lead by Veterans for Peace, were arrested at White House. Veterans for Peace.
March 19, 2011. Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested in Hollywood California after staging a sit protesting the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Veterans for Peace.
March 20, 2011. Thirty five people were arrested protesting outside the Quantico brig where Bradley Manning was being held. Bradley Manning Support Network.
March 28, 2011. Seven people defending a family against eviction and protesting home foreclosures were arrested in Rochester, NY, including a 70 year old neighbor in her pajamas. Take Back the Land.
April 4, 2011. Seven people protesting against unjust immigration legislation barring undocumented immigrants from Georgia colleges were arrested for blocking traffic in Atlanta Georgia.
April 7, 2011. Seventeen people were arrested protesting budget cuts in assistance for the poor and elderly and calling for an end to corporate tax exemptions in Olympia Washington.
April 10, 2011. Twenty seven people calling attention to the thousands of murders of people in Latin America by graduates of the US Army School of the Americas/WHINSEC were arrested outside the White House. School of Americas Watch.
April 11, 2011. Forty one people, including the Mayor and many of the members of the District of Columbia city council, protesting Congressional action limiting how the District of Columbia could spend its own money were arrested in Washington DC.
April 15, 2011. Eight teenage girl students, some as young as fourteen, were arrested after they refused to leave their public school Catherine Ferguson Academy, which is specially designated for pregnant and mothering teens in Detroit. Also with the young women were children and teachers. The school is targeted for closure due to budget cutbacks.
April 22, 2011. Thirty seven people were arrested protesting the use of drones outside the Hancock Air Force base near Syracuse New York. Syracuse Peace Council. Ithaca Catholic Worker.
April 22, 2011. Eleven women chained and locked the gate at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon Vermont before being arrested.
April 22, 2011. Thirty three people protesting at the Livermore Lab which designs nuclear weapons at an interfaith peace service were arrested for trespassing in California.
April 22, 2011. Four people were arrested at the Pentagon after they held up a banner and read from a leaflet outside of the designated protest zone. Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.
April 24, 2011. Sixteen protestors against nuclear weapons at the Nevada National Security Site were arrested after a sixty mile sacred walk from Las Vegas. Nevada Desert Experience. Pace e Bene.
May 2, 2011. Fifty two protestors against a nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City Missouri were arrested after blocking a gate to the construction site. Holy Family Catholic Worker.
May 9, 2011. Five people protesting against draconian immigration laws were arrested in the governor’s office in Indianapolis, Indiana.
May 7, 2011. Seven people celebrating Mothers Day and protesting nuclear weapons were arrested outside the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor twenty miles from Seattle. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
May 9, 2011. Sixty five people protesting cutbacks in education funding were arrested in Sacramento California.
January 6, 2010. Over one hundred people protesting for union recognition of hotel workers at Hyatt San Francisco were arrested. UNITE Here Local 2.
January 15, 2010. A man who served nearly six months in jail and who was still on probation for hammering windows at a military recruiting center in Lancaster Pennsylvania was arrested at the recruiting center after insisting that recruiters and recruits to leave the army.
January 18, 2010. Seven people commemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday wore sandwich board messages saying “Make War No More,” “It’s about Justice,” and “its About Peace,” outside of Lockheed Martin’s main entrance in Merion Pennsylvania until they were arrested. Brandywine Peace Community.
January 21, 2010. Forty-two people protesting the ongoing human rights violations of Guantanamo prison were arrested at the US Capitol building. Twenty-eight were arrested on the steps of the Capitol and fourteen inside the rotunda. Witness Against Torture.
January 26, 2010. Thirteen people from Minnesota lobbying to stop funding for war were arrested after holding a die-in on the sidewalk in front of the White House. Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
January 31, 2010. Eight people were arrested trying to protest at Vandenberg Air Force base in California, one of those arrested, an octogenarian, was brought to the hospital for injuries suffered in the arrest. A few days later, seven protestors were arrested at the same spot. A month later, four more protestors were arrested. Vandenberg Witness.
February 22, 2010. Five people protesting against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were arrested inside US Senators’ offices in the Des Moines Iowa federal building. Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Des Moines Catholic Worker.
March 4, 2010. Four students protesting against rape were arrested after they refused to leave the administration building at Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan.
March 20, 2010. Nine peace activists were arrested in Washington DC for lying down beside mock coffins outside the White House.
March 21, 2010. Two people protesting at the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show at Monthan Air Force base held a banner declaring “War is not a Show” in front of a Predator Unmanned Air Vehicle (drone) were arrested.
March 30, 2010. Eight protestors were arrested during a march against police brutality in Portland Oregon.
April 2, 2010. Eleven people on a Good Friday walk for peace and justice were arrested outside the USS Intrepid in New York city after they began reading the names of 250 Iraqi, American and Afghan war dead. Pax Christi New York.
April 2, 2010. Nine people carrying a banner “Lockheed Martin Weapons + War = The Crucifixion Today” in the 34th annual Good Friday protest at Lockheed Martin were arrested in Valley Forge Pennsylvania. Brandywine Peace Community.
April 4, 2010. Twenty two people protesting against nuclear weapons after the Sacred Walk from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site were arrested after the Western Shoshone sunrise ceremony and Easter Mass. Nevada Desert Experience.
April 7, 2010. Three people, including a 12 year old girl, were arrested inside a US Senators office in Des Moines, Iowa with a banner “No More $$$ For War.” The mother of the 12 year old girl was called into the police station and issued a citation the next day for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Voices for Creative Nonviolence and Des Moines Catholic Worker.
April 15, 2010. A man protesting nuclear weapons was arrested inside the security fence of a nuclear missile silo near Parshall, North Dakota.
April 16, 2010. Twelve people protesting against Sodexho mistreatment of workers were arrested in Montgomery County Maryland. Service Employees International Union.
April 20, 2010. A woman was arrested for standing in the path of a bulldozer to try to prevent mining in Marquette County, Michigan.
April 26, 2010. Seventeen people protesting war and poverty inside and outside the federal building in Chicago were arrested. Midwest Catholic Worker.
April 26, 2010. Boulder Colorado police arrested five people protesting at Valmont coal power plant.
May 3, 2010. Three people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested at Bangor Naval Base outside of Seattle Washington. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
May 3, 2010. Twenty two people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested at Grand Central Station in New York city after unfurling banners saying “Nuclear Weapons = Terrorism,” and “Talk Less, Disarm More.” War Resisters League.
May 9, 2010. Seven people trying to stop a foreclosure-driven eviction were arrested in Toledo Ohio. Take Back the Land.
May 15, 2010. Thirty four people protesting against Arizona’s draconian immigration laws were arrested outside the White House.
May 17, 2010. Sixteen people were arrested in NYC protesting against unjust immigration policies.
May 20, 2010. A woman US Army specialist who served as a Military Police applied for conscientious objector status while serving in Iraq and who later left her unit was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
May 24, 2010. Thirty seven people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrests in New York City.
June 1, 2010. Fifty six people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrested in NYC.
June 8, 2010. Six peace advocates were arraigned in federal court in Des Moines, Iowa for numerous actions protesting in US Senators offices for the previous several months. One activist, a grandmother and hog farmer, held weekly die-ins in Senators’ offices and was arrested frequently. Once, when police asked her to leave, she replied that she was dead and couldn’t leave. Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
June 15, 2010. Several people protesting against evictions caused by bank foreclosure were arrested in Miami Florida. Take Back the Land.
June 23, 2010. Twenty two people protesting in favor of immigration reform singing “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land,” were arrested and charged with blocking traffic in Seattle.
July 5, 2010. Thirty six people protesting for a nuclear free future were arrested at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – thirteen of federal trespass charges and twenty-three on state charges for blocking a highway. Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.
July 6, 2010. Seventy eight people protesting against police brutality in Oakland California and the trial involving a shooting by a BART police office.
July 23, 2010. One hundred fifty two hotel workers protesting against management at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco were arrested. UNITE Here Local 2.
July 29, 2010. Thirteen people were arrested in Tucson Arizona protesting against the state’s illegal immigration laws.
August 9, 2010. On Nagasaki day, three people protesting against the US commitment to nuclear weapons were arrested outside the US Strategic Air Command in Omaha Nebraska. Omaha Catholic Worker.
August 15, 2010. A twenty two year old female student at Michigan State University who pitched an apple pie at a US Senator during an anti-war protest was arrested and charged with federal felony charges of forcible assault on a federal officer. Another anti-war activist was also arrested and charged with the same crime.
September 9, 2010. Twelve people protesting for equality for gay people in the workplace were arrested in San Francisco.
September 27, 2010. One hundred fourteen people protesting mountaintop removal coal mining were arrested at the White House after a conference of people from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Prior to this protest, forty-nine activists in the Climate Ground Zero Campaign have served jail time for taking action against strip-mining in Appalachia. Climate Ground Zero.
November 5, 2010. One hundred fifty two people protesting police killings were arrested in Oakland, California.
November 8, 2010. Five people protesting wind turbines in Lincoln, Maine were arrested including an 82 year old native of Maine.
November 21, 2010. Three people were arrested on federal charges and twenty-four more on state charges at the School of Americas/WHINSEC protest in Columbus Georgia outside the gates of Fort Benning. Six others were arrested at a protest against a private prison housing immigrants in rural Georgia. School of Americas Watch. ACLU Immigrant Rights Project.
December 1, 2010. Three people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrested at the office of a Congress rep in Racine Wisconsin. Voces de la Frontera.
December 16, 2010. One hundred thirty one protestors, including numerous veterans, gathered in the snow outside the White House challenging the war in Afghanistan, the cover-up of war crimes and the prosecution of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks were arrested for failing to clear the sidewalk. In a parallel New York City protest, several others were also arrested. Veterans for Peace.
December 17, 2010. Twenty two people protesting against unfair home foreclosures were arrested when they blocked an entrance to a Chase bank branch in Los Angeles. Alliance Californians for Community Empowerment.
December 20, 2010. Six people were arrested after protesting at Bank of America against the foreclosure of an elderly couple in South Saint Louis. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.
December 28, 2010. Three parents asking for the abolition of all nuclear weapons were arrested for leafleting at the Pentagon. Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.
January 2009, seventeen people, clad in black mourning clothes and white masks, were arrested in the US Senate Building for reading the names of the dead in ongoing US wars and unfurling banners stating “The Audacity of War Crimes,” “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” “Palestine,” and “We Will Not Be Silent.”
January 26, 2009, six human rights advocates were sentenced to two to six months of federal prison or home arrest in federal court in Columbus Georgia for challenging training of Latin American human rights abusers at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) by walking onto Fort Benning. School of Americas Watch.
January 2009, a former Army specialist who refused to graduate with his Airborne Division because he realized he could not kill anybody was arrested and jailed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The former soldier had been ordered home in May 2002 to await discharge papers. Courage to Resist.
February 2009. There were fifteen arrests of activists protesting mountain top removal by Massey in West Virginia. Climate Ground Zero.
February 2009, five peace activists in Salem Oregon fasting on the steps of the state capitol building so that National Guard soldiers would not be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan were cited for trespass by state police.
March 1, 2009, six anti-nuclear activists protesting the 55th anniversary of the US nuclear bomb detonation at Bikini Atoll were arrested at the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Kitsap, Washington after they knelt in the roadway. Ground Zero Community and Pacific Life Community.
March 4, 2009, nine people seeking to present a letter to CEO of Alliant Technologies outlining how weapons manufacturers were prosecuted as war criminals at the end of WWII were arrested in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Alliant Action.
March 12, 2009, four people who were arrested during a protest at Vandenberg Air Force base were fined between $500 and $2500 by federal authorities. California Peace Action.
March 17, 2009, seven people seeking a meeting with US Defense Secretary to challenge the legality of the war in Iraq were arrested at the Pentagon. National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.
March 18, 2009, seven women, ranging in ages from 65 to 89, some in wheelchairs and walkers, were arrested protesting the war in Iraq after wrapping yellow crime scene tape around a military recruiting center and blocking the entrance for an hour in New York City. Grannie Peace Brigade.
March 19, 2009, three people protesting the war in Iraq were arrested in Washington DC. In one instance a US Army veteran scaled the front of the Veterans Administration building and unfurled a banner saying “Veterans Say NO to War and Occupation.” Protests against the war in Iraq in Chicago resulted in an arrest there after banner drop.
March 19-21, 2009, protests against the war in Iraq in San Francisco resulted in twenty-two arrests at a die-in in the financial district, eleven more for blocking a street outside the Civic Center, and ten more at the Saturday march when Palestinian marchers were confronted by pro-Israel counter protestors resulting in police using batons and tear gas.
March 31, 2009, four people were arrested in Brattleboro, Vermont, for standing in silent opposition to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power reactor.
March 31, 2009, an anti-nuclear protestor was convicted of trespassing at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons facility and sentenced to two days in jail, community service and probation. Trinity House Catholic Worker.
April 3, 2009, four people protesting injustices on Wall Street and in Afghanistan and Iraq were arrested in New York, NY, for marching down the center of the street. Bail Out the People Movement.
April 9, 2009, fourteen people were arrested at Creech Air Force outside Las Vegas Nevada base protesting against the US use of drones in lethal attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevada Desert Experience.
April 10, 2009, eight people were arrested while kneeling and praying for peace at the Pentagon. Another, clad in an orange jumpsuit and black hood, was arrested at the White House where he was chained to the fence protesting the human rights abuses of Guantanamo. Jonah House.
April 10, 2009, sixteen people were arrested while protesting the war profiteer Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Brandywine Peace Community.
April 12, 2009, twenty one people were arrested while protesting the use of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site on Western Shoshone tribal lands. Nevada Desert Experience.
April 17, 2009. A man protesting US polices of violence, racism and poverty-production was sentenced to six months in prison for hammering out some windows in the US Military Recruiting Center in Lancaster Pennsylvania.
April 23, 2009, four people protesting lies by military recruiters were arrested after locking themselves to the door at the military recruiting center in Minnesota. Three others were arrested at the Knollwood Plaza after disrupting the recruitment center so much it had to be closed. Another woman was arrested near a recruiting center after placing a “Don’t Enlist” sticker on a police car. Antiwar committee.
April 24, 2009, a woman calling for the return of the National Guard from Iraq was arrested in the US House Appropriations during testimony by US Generals in Washington DC. Code Pink.
April 28, 2009, a US Army veteran who refused to fight in Iraq was court-martialed in Fort Stewart, Georgia and sentenced to one year in prison. Courage to Resist.
April 29, 2009, twenty-two people were arrested after trying to serve a Notice of Foreclosure for Moral Bankruptcy on Blackwater/Xe, the mercenary company responsible for so many deaths in Iraq, at its compound in Mount Carmel, Illinois. Des Moines Catholic Worker Community.
April 30, 2009, sixty three people were arrested at the White House protesting against illegal detention and torture at Guantanamo prison. Witness Against Torture.
May 20, 2009. Twenty one people protesting against the war in Iraq were arrested outside a military recruiting center in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
July 22, 2009, four people protesting against Boeing’s role in the production of drones, which have killed more than 700 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were arrested inside the Boeing lobby in Chicago, Illinois. Christian Peacemaker Teams.
August 4, 2009, four shareholders who sought to speak at the shareholders meeting of depleted uranium munitions producer Alliant Techsystems were arrested when they approached the microphone in Eden Prairie Minnesota. Alliant Action.
August 5, 2009, a US Army specialist who refused to deploy to Afghanistan was sentenced to 30 days in jail and given a less than honorable discharge in Killeen Texas. Courage to Resist.
August 6, 2009, a 75 year old priest, protesting the 64th anniversary of the US dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima, was arrested outside of Greeley Colorado where he cut the fence around a nuclear missile silo, hung peace banners, prayed and tried to break open the hatch on the silo.
August 6, 2009, nine antiwar activists were arrested at Fort McCoy Wisconsin after a three day peace walk protesting against US nuclear weapons and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nuke Watch.
August 6, 2009, two people were arrested at the Pentagon entrance on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing carrying a banner stating “Remember the Pain, Remember the Sin, Reclaim the Future.” Jonah House.
August 6, 2009, twenty two people protesting the horror of Hiroshima were arrested in Livermore California when they blocked the entrance to the Lawrence Livermore weapons lab. Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.
August 6, 2009, nine people at a vigil for peace and nonviolence were arrested for walking onto Lockheed Martin property at Valley Forge Pennsylvania and spreading sunflower seeds, an international symbol for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Brandywine Peace Community.
August 6, 2009, two people were arrested when they refused to stop praying at the gates of the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson Arizona. Rose of the Desert Catholic Worker.
August 10, 2009, nine persons calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons were arrested at Bangor Naval base, home to the Trident submarine, twenty miles from Seattle Washington. Ground Zero Community.
August 14, 2009, a US Army Sergeant who refused to go to Afghanistan and who asked for conscientious objector status was found guilty of disobeying lawful orders and going AWOL at a trial in Fort Hood. He was sentenced to one year in prison and given a bad conduct discharge.
August 17, 2009. Four people were arrested outside the Boalt Hall classroom where they were protesting John Yoo, who coauthored the memos authorizing torture on people in Guantanamo during the Bush administration.
August 22, 2009, two people protesting against nuclear missile testing were arrested at Vandenberg Air Force base and cited for trespass.
September 9, 2009. Four people protesting against Massey Energy mountain top removal were arrested in Madison West Virginia. Climate Ground Zero.
September 12, 2009, seven people who were protesting against the use of the high-tech bloodless arcade Army Experience Center in Philadelphia were arrested. Seven other protestors were arrested there earlier in the year. Shut Down the AEC.
September 24, 2009, ninety two people protesting management disregard for union rights of hotel workers were arrested at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco. UNITE Here Local 2.
September 27, 2009, twenty one people protesting against the Nevada Test Site were arrested at the Mercury gate. At an action to “Ground the Drones” protesting the increasing use of lethal drones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, another eleven people were arrested. Code Pink. Pace e Bene. Nevada Desert Experience.
September 28, 2009, four women, ages 66 to 90, walked past security guards at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant protesting inadequate safety at the plant. Carrying signs saying “Yom Kippur, September 28, Time to Atone, Shut Down Vermont Yankee,” this was the seventh set of arrests at the nuclear plant or its corporate headquarters since 2005.
September, 2009, the US Army accepted the resignation of Lieutenant, who refused to fight in Iraq because he believed the war violates international law, and gave him a discharge under other than honorable conditions. Courage to Resist.
October 1, 2009. A well known mixed martial arts fighter was sentenced to 90 days of work release and a fine of $28,000 for spraying symbols on an Army recruiting center and the Washington State Capitol building to help raise consciousness about the illegal war in Iraq.
October 2, 2009. Four people trying to deliver a document titled “Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers under International Law” to the weapons manufacturer Alliant Technologies were arrested in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Alliant Action.
October 5, 2009, a couple, who married the day before and who were carrying a banner saying “Just Married; Love Disarms,” were arrested during a peace protest at Lockheed-Martin in Sunnyvale California. A priest was also arrested as the three gave out leaflets to workers entering the war contractor work site. Albuquerque New Mexico Catholic Worker.
October 5, 2009, sixty one people were arrested while protesting the ninth year of the US war in Afghanistan in front of the White House. Some of the arrested were in orange jumpsuits and chained to the fence. Secret Service officers assaulted other protestors, pushing and pulling them away from the protest site, bruising some. No Good War and Jonah House.
October 7, 2009, twelve protestors against the war in Afghanistan were arrested in Rochester, NY. Some of the arrested were treated at the hospital after being struck by police. Rochester Students for a Democratic Society.
October 7, 2009. Two people were arrested in Grand Central Station after unfurling banners which said “Afghanistan Enough!” War Resisters League.
October 11, 2009. Two women who held up banners when Tiger Woods was ready to putt, saying “President Obama – End Bush’s War,” and “End the Afghan Quagmire,” were handcuffed and escorted away from the President’s Cup golf tournament in San Francisco.
November 2, 2009. Five people calling for nuclear disarmament cut through the fence around the Naval Base Kitsap which houses the Trident nuclear submarines and nuclear warheads outside of Seattle Washington. The five walked through the base until they found the storage area for nuclear weapons and cut two more fences to get inside where they put up banners and spread sunflower seeds until they were arrested. Disarm Now Plowshares.
November 4, 2009. Two people were arrested while protesting outside Vandenberg Air Force base in California. Vandenberg Witness.
November 4, 2009. Eight protestors, including one who was 91 years old, were arrested at the Strategic Space Symposium in Omaha Nebraska while holding a “Space Weapons=Death” banner. Des Moines and Omaha Catholic Worker.
November 15, 2009. Five people protesting against US torture practices at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where military interrogators are trained were arrested. Torture on Trial.
November 22, 2009. Four people protesting the training of human rights abusers by the US Army at their School of Americas/WHINSEC were arrested in Columbus, Georgia. School of Americas Watch.
November 23, 2009. A longtime war tax resister pled guilty to avoiding paying taxes for war at court in Bangor Maine. National War Tax Resistance Coordination Committee.
December 1, 2009. Protestors at 100 cities across the country challenged President Obama’s talk at West Point to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Six were arrested at West Point, eleven in Minneapolis, and three in Madison Wisconsin.
December 9, 2009. Six people protesting that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize were arrested outside the federal building in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Catholic Worker.
December 10, 2009. Six people protesting the use of lethal drones were forcibly escorted out of the 11th Annual Unmanned Aerial Systems Conference outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Trinity Nuclear Abolition and Code Pink.
More information about many of these arrests can be found at www.nukeresister.org.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at email@example.com
The Democrats Attack Unions Nationwide May 16, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
Tags: afl-cio, anti-union, collective bargaining, democratic governors, democratic party, democrats, labor, labor movement, labor unions, labour, shamus cooke, state workers, unions, worker rights, workers
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Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)
From Cairo to Madison: Hope and Solidarity Are Alive February 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: cairo, codepink, collective bargaining, egypt, labor, labor unions, labour, medea benjamin, right to strike, roger hollander, solidarity, tahrir square, unions, wisconsin, workers rights
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Co-founder, CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Here in Madison, Wisconsin, where protesters have occupied the State Capitol Building to stop the pending bill that would eliminate workers’ right to collective bargaining, echoes of Cairo are everywhere. Protesters here were elated by the photo of an Egyptian engineer named Muhammad Saladin Nusair holding a sign in Tahrir Square saying “Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers — One World, One Pain.” The signs by protesters in Madison include “Welcome to Wiscairo,” “From Egypt to Wisconsin: We Rise Up,” and “Government Walker: Our Mubarak.” The banner I brought directly from Tahrir Square saying “Solidarity with Egyptian Workers” has been hanging from the balcony of the Capitol alongside solidarity messages from around the country.
My travels from Cairo to Madison seem like one seamless web. After camping out with the students and workers in the Capitol Building, I gave an early morning seminar on what it was like to be an eyewitness to the Egyptian revolution, and the struggles that are taking place right now in places like Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. Folks told me all day how inspiring it was to hear about the uprisings in the Arab world.
Some took the lessons from Cairo literally. Looking around at the Capitol Building that was starting to show the wear and tear from housing thousands of protesters, I had mentioned that in Cairo the activists were constantly scrubbing the square, determined to show how much they loved the space they had liberated. A few hours later, in Madison’s rotunda, people were on their hands and knees scrubbing the marble floor. “We’re quick learners,” one of the high school students told me, smiling as she picked at the remains of Oreo cookies sticking to the floor.
I heard echoes of Cairo in the Capitol hearing room where a nonstop line of people had gathered all week to give testimonies. The Democratic assemblymembers have been giving folks a chance to voice their concerns about the governor’s pending bill. In this endless stream of heartfelt testimonies, people talk about the impact this bill will have on their own families — their take-home pay, their health care, their pensions. They talk about the governor manufacturing the budget crisis to break the unions. They talk about the history of workers’ struggles to earn living wages and have decent benefits. And time and again, I heard people say, “I saw how the Egyptian people were able to rise up and overthrow a 30-year dictatorship, and that inspired me to rise up and fight this bill.”
Solidarity is, indeed, a beautiful thing. It is a way we show our oneness with all of humanity; it is a way to reaffirm our own humanity. CODEPINK sent flowers to the people in Tahrir Square — a gesture that was received with kisses, hugs and tears from the Egyptians. The campers in Madison erupted in cheer when they heard that an Egyptian had called the local pizza place Ians Pizza and placed a huge order to feed the protesters. “Pizza never tasted so good,” a Wisconsin fireman commented when he was told that the garlic pizza he was eating had come from supporters in Cairo.
Egyptian engineer Muhammad Saladin Nusair, the one whose photo supporting Wisconsin workers went viral, now has thousands of new American Facebook friends. He wrote in his blog that many of his new friends were surprised by his gesture of solidarity, but he was taught that “we live in ONE world and under the same sky.”
“If a human being doesn’t feel the pain of his fellow human beings, then everything we’ve created and established since the very beginning of existence is in great danger,” Muhammad wrote. “We shouldn’t let borders and differences separate us. We were made different to complete each other, to integrate and live together. One world, one pain, one humanity, one hope.”
From the trenches of Madison’s State Capitol Building, hope — and solidarity — are alive and well.
Medea Benjamin is co-founder of CODEPINK (www.codepink.org) and Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org).
Follow Medea Benjamin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/medeabenjamin
Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act April 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
Tags: anti-union, blue diamond, collective bargaining, david bacon, employment free choice, free choice act, labor unions, national labor relations, nlra, Rep. George Miller, roger hollander, union-busters, unions, workers, workers rights
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Published on Thursday, April 9, 2009 by The San Francisco Chronicle
Unions are good for workers. Today, median weekly pay for union members is $886, compared to $691 for nonunion workers. Moving cargo on the Oakland waterfront pays three times what stocking shelves does at Wal-Mart because longshore workers have had a union contract since 1934.
In 1936, Congress recognized the value of unions and passed the National Labor Relations Act, setting up a legal system in which private sector, nonfarm workers could join unions and bargain. The preamble declares the law’s purpose: “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and … protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.”
Today, however, the law is virtually unable to fulfill its intended function. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has proposed commonsense measures to restore its effectiveness in the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers are mounting a hysterical campaign against it, even calling it “bolshevism,” and claiming to be protectors of their workers’ rights. We need a reality check about what really happens when workers try to organize.
The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to repay three times the back pay of a worker fired for organizing a union, with $20,000 fines for willful or repeated violations. It is illegal to fire a worker for union activity, but pro-union workers were fired in 30 percent of union-representation elections in 2007, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. There are no fines or penalties on employers for this – just reinstatement and back pay, and employers even get to deduct the unemployment benefits of the fired worker.
The National Labor Relations Act is the only federal law where violators receive no punishment. Workers, knowing they can be fired so easily, are understandably afraid to join unions.
The proposed legislation would therefore bring back the process for forming unions used in the years after the labor act was first passed (and which is used today in Canada). Workers would be able to sign union cards, and employers would have to recognize their union if a majority signed. Today, employers demand secret-ballot elections, and then wage an anti-union campaign that peaks on election day. For instance, according to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, at Blue Diamond in Sacramento, the company told workers two days before the election that many might lose their jobs if the union won because growers wouldn’t bring any more almonds to the plant.
Companies like Blue Diamond use outside union-busters, who have created a billion-dollar industry managing these anti-union campaigns. Campaign tactics include: In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51 percent of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. This conduct is effectively unpunishable, making a mockery of free elections. Signing cards is a safer, calmer process that workers control themselves, and workers keep the option of using either the cards or the election – their choice, not their employer’s.
Last, when workers form a union and a majority supports it, companies should negotiate a contract. That’s what the law says. The reality? Even when workers win elections, companies don’t negotiate in half the cases. After a year, they can legally walk away. When workers at the Rite-Aid warehouse in Lancaster (Los Angeles County) won an election, the most important agreement they could achieve after 18 bargaining sessions was the location of the union bulletin board.
With the Employee Free Choice Act, after 120 days of fruitless bargaining on a first-time contract, an arbitrator can resolve the issues still in dispute. Companies say they fear an outsider imposing unrealistic conditions. But with no mechanism to force agreement, companies know it’s lots cheaper to wait out the year than to raise wages and provide better benefits.
Many employers simply do not accept the law’s intention – encouraging workers to organize. They created the need for the act by undermining the process and rights established in 1936. By first undermining the law, and then resisting Miller’s common-sense remedies, they are pushing for a return to an era when organizing a union had no protection at all.
© 2009 The San Francisco Chronicle
Urgent Call For Solidarity With Mexican Miners January 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Latin America, Mexico.
Tags: collective bargaining, felipe calderon, fox administration, grupo mexico, john lewis, labor, labor rights, labour, Mexico, mineworkers, roger hollander, strike, unions, workers
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Written by John L. Lewis
January 10, 2009 at 4:41 am
The National Union of Mineworkers, Steelworkers, Steelmakers and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) is being subjected to fierce repression by the fraudulent government of Felipe Calderon and by the Grupo México, the mining monopoly that seeks to destroy the union. What is the mineworkers’ crime? It’s defending the right of workers to decide who their leaders should be without government interference; it’s defending their collective-bargaining agreement.On December 4, Carlos Pavon Campos, Secretary for Political Affairs of the mineworkers’ union, was arrested in Mexico City. He was immediately transferred to the city of Monclova in the state of Coahuila (in the north), on charges of alleged fraud. The day before, Juan Linares Montufar, president of the union’s Main Committee of Vigilance, was transferred to Mexico City. Linares Montufar had been arrested in the city of Morelia in the state of Michoacan.
A few weeks earlier, the government “froze” the bank accounts of the union. On December 9, a judge ruled “Illegal and non-existent” the mineworkers’ strike in Cananea, Sonora. Those workers, together with mineworkers in Sombrerete and Taxco have been on strike for over a year to defend their working conditions and the existence of their union. Grupo Mexico has simply refused to negotiate with the union. Today [Dec. 13] the media report that 50 mineworkers in Cananea were issued arrest warrants.
The crackdown against the union began under the Fox administration (2000-2006) through the creation of “white [scab] unions” in opposition the National Union of Mineworkers. Legal charges were brought against Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, president of the union, who was forced to seek political asylum in Canada. The crackdown has intensified under the government of Felipe Calderon and has reached a level of absolute arbitrary force, outside legal norms, with the appointment by the government of Francisco Gomez Mont Urrueta, a man who had previously been the legal assessor of Grupo México, that is, the very company set on destroying the union.
The government aims to break the will of those fighting to defend the freedom of association and workers’ conquests. The government does not tolerate the union’s demand that the circumstances of the deaths in the Pasta de Conchos mine (in the state of Coahuila) be clarified and the union’s demand for the recovery of the bodies (still buried deep underground) of the deceased workers in this mine.
All these repressive actions taken against the mine workers’ union are an indicator of what the government is preparing with the labor counter-reform it seeks to impose in 2009 (as announced by the Secretary of Labor). This new law aims to eliminate labor rights, to exert even greater pressure on the unions to impose individual and test contracts and to facilitate lay-offs.
The defense of the Mexican mineworkers’ union requires the support of mineworkers and of all unions and union activists the world over. An urgent solidarity response is needed on an international with these embattled mineworkers.
We urge you to demand of the Mexican government:
* The immediate release of Carlos Pavon Campos and Juan Linares Montufar, leaders of the Union of mineworkers
* The withdrawal of all arrest warrants against mineworkers in Cananea
* The return of the bank accounts of the union
* The strict observance of union autonomy and independence
* No to government interference in the internal affairs of the union
* Observance of ILO Conventions 87 and 98
Please send your petitions to:
LIC. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa,
Official Residence de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, CP 11850, Distrito Federal, MÉXICOTelephone and fax: (55) 50935300
LIC. FERNANDO Francisco Gomez MONT Urueta
Bucareli 99, 1er piso Colonia Juarez CP 06699 México DF,
>Fax: (00 52) 5 55 546 5350, (00 52) 5 55 546 7388
DR. José Luis Soberanes Fernánde
PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS