International unions

Workers' control and the Chicago model

On 6 February, the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) issued a “framework... relating to resumption of in-person instruction” to its membership, and their vote to ratify was reported on 10 February. That framework included familiar features. Every CPS (Chicago Public Schools) facility must have sufficient hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, “sneeze guards”, medical grade face coverings, and PPE. But some is unfamiliar — and can be a model for us in schools, and other workplaces too. The framework agreement says: “The Union and the Board [management] will create two levels of Covid-19 safety...

New repression in Hong Kong

On Sunday 28 February 47 participants in Hong Kong’s democratic primaries last June were charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion”, a charge that brings a possible life sentence. The hearing of bail requests from the 47 slowed down court proceedings. Only six were heard before the normal end of court business. The court continued until 2:30am, when Clarisse Yeung, one of the defendants, collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. Another three were also taken to hospital, including Leung Kwok Hung. It looks as though all bail will be refused and all will be remanded in prison for the next...

Black workers take on Amazon

A union organising drive at Amazon’s new fulfillment centre (BMH1) in Bessemer, Alabama, a majority Black and working-class city adjacent to Birmingham, began in the late summer of 2020, when a handful of workers, fed up with stressful working conditions, intrusive monitoring and lack of safety during the pandemic, contacted the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union has a high profile in the region, where it has organised poultry workers, many of whom are African American, as are around 85% of the BMH1 workers. From the beginning, Amazon mounted a massive anti-union propaganda...

Burmese junta declares labour movement illegal

Since this article was written on 1 March the military has escalated its crackdown, killing and injuring dozens of protesters. More soon. See here for regular updates. In the last days of February Myanmar’s military regime killed at least 18 people and injured dozens more, using live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against striking workers and protesters. On 26 February the regime’s spokesman read out a list of sixteen trade unions and working-class organisations, declaring them illegal and promising persecution if they and their members continue to mobilise against the coup. The...

Drop charges against Hong Kong rebels!

On 16 February, the trial started of seven democracy leaders in Hong Kong. Two others pleaded guilty. They are accused of organising an unauthorised assembly on 18 August 2019, when the Civil Front called a rally of 1.7 million people. Among the accused are Hong Kong trade union leader Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU (Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions); other left wing activists such as Leung Kwok Hung (“Long Hair”); and “pan-democratic” veterans such as the 82 year old Martin Lee. The charges, unconnected with the new National Security Law (NSL) and relying instead on old...

Karen Lewis lit the spark

Karen Lewis, leader of the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike, died of cancer on 7 February 2021. An obituary in Labor Notes here describes her role in building a rank-and-file caucus in the Chicago Teachers’ Union and then leading the CTU.

Hong Kong faces wave of trials

On 16 February, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan went into court for his trial for alleged “unauthorised assembly” on 18 August 2019. He said: “Let’s uphold the fundamental rights, freedoms and democracy. As 2021 is the year of the Ox, I wish everyone to be as strong as an ox and persistence for democracy… “It should be the police, the Department of Justice and the Hong Kong government to be put on trial, because they deprived us of the right to assembly and demonstration, which is protected constitutionally”. The 18 August 2019 protest, against police...

Demands for DVLA (John Moloney's column)

PCS held an emergency meeting with senior managers from the Department for Transport on Friday 29 January, to discuss the situation at the DVLA [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] complex in Swansea. Thousands of workers are still being compelled to come into the workplace even though the safety measures are totally inadequate. We’ve demanded a massive reduction in the number of staff working in the offices; we want that brought down to the bare minimum. The union will meet the department again on 2 February and we’ll put their response to a virtual members’ meeting the following day. If...

Clampdown forces Hong Kong union to disband

On 15 January 2021, the Hong Kong Civil Service Bureau (CSB), undoubtedly acting under the instruction of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her Chinese Communist Party masters, issued a circular to all government departments All 180,000 workers in these departments will be required to take an oath of loyalty to the government and its “basic law”. If they take that oath and are later seen to be acting “disloyally”, they can face immediate disciplinary action. Monitoring of their activities might also feed into their prosecution under the National Security Law. Many civil service workers, including...

Mass arrests in Hong Kong

Prominent trade union leaders were amongst the 53 activists arrested in Hong Kong on the early morning of Wednesday 6 January 2021. Carol Ng, the chair of the HKCTU and Winnie Yu, chair of the most vibrant new health workers' union, the HAEA, were amongst them.

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