International unions

UAW sells out John Deere workers

Ten thousand strikers at twelve John Deere plants across the US have accepted a contract backed by management and the UAW union after 5 weeks of strike action. One striker summed up the feelings of those battling Deere (and unfortunately their own union): “We were sold out”. A six year contract with a 12% wage increase (i.e a shoddy 2% a year) was passed by 61% across Deere, although in the tractor plant at Waterloo, Iowa, it is reported that 56% of workers rejected the deal. The bosses’ papers dutifully parrot the Deere media blitz that a “significant margin” passed the deal, which is meant...

Victory for HK strikers

From 13 November 200 food delivery workers in Hong Kong struck for two days against their employer Foodpanda. They took to the streets on 16 November with a 15 point series of demands. The police unfurled blue banners instructing them to disperse or face arrest as an illegal assembly — the charge that has seen many leading Hong Kong trade unionists given prison sentences of up to two years. But the workers did not cease their action. The Foodpanda workers, many of whom are Asian migrants to Hong Kong, were protesting about many of the problems experienced by other delivery workers across the...

The political economy of Sudan's coup and uprising

UK-based Sudanese socialist and student activist Mohammed Elnaiem, who was active in Sudan during the revolt of 2019, spoke to Solidarity. On Saturday, we had a “Millions March” in Sudan, part of a schedule of protests called by the resistance committee – neighbourhood committees that are currently leading the rebellion. Two days before it, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced the composition of the new, post-coup “sovereignty council”. This added fuel to the fire. People in multiple cities not only demonstrated but effectively rose up and built barricades. There is ongoing civil...

John Deere strikers face re-vote

A re-vote has been announced on the defeated deal in the dispute at John Deere agricultural equipment factories, in Iowa and Indiana and elsewhere in the USA. 10,000 workers had vowed to continue, but union officials from the United Automobile Workers (UAW) announced on 12 November that there would be a re-vote on the agreement already overwhelmingly voted down on 3 November, with only small alterations made. This is reminiscent of the UAW actions at Volvo trucks earlier this year, where 3,000 workers voted down three UAW sell out agreements. It takes the total UAW backed contracts rejected by...

Sudan's neighbourhoods and workers vs the military coup

On 7 November a new wave of protests and a mass strike began in Sudan to overturn the military coup of 25 October. We hope to carry more next week. Sudanese civil society activist Hamid Khalafallah spoke to us on 2 November. What happened after the struggles of 2019? Many people feel this new coup was almost inevitable, because the arrangements created in 2019 were highly problematic. The military ousted Bashir [authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir] in 2019, and then they wanted to hold on to as much power as possible. In the course of the uprising, they killed a lot of people – for instance...

John Deere workers hold firm

The big contingent in the small-scale strike wave sweeping the United States (“Striketober”) is 10,000 workers at agricultural equipment company John Deere, out since 14 October over wages, pensions, healthcare and a multi-tier workforce. Having demanded huge concessions from the workers, including a new third tier with no pensions, the company now appears to have retreated from all or almost all of them. It has also significantly increased its pay offer — from 5% followed by 2% every other year (and one-off 2% lump sums in between) to 10% followed by 5% every other year (and 3% lump sums). 90...

Sudan: unions take lead in fight for democracy

Military coups are, sadly, a fairly regular occurrence in Africa. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the military seizing or attempting to seize power in Mali, Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon and Sudan. What makes the recent military coup in Sudan of particular interest to us is the extraordinary role played by the country’s trade unions in the fight to defend democracy. The coup began, as might be expected, by a crackdown on journalists. According to reports from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), “Bloomberg/Al Sharq correspondent Maha Al-Talb and her crew were arrested and held...

John Deere striker killed in the US

On 27 October at 6am, a striking John Deere agricultural equipment worker, Richard Rich, 56, employed at the company for 15 years, was hit by a vehicle at a poorly lit intersection at the main parts distribution centre in Milan, Illinois, and died of traumatic chest injuries. Workers have raised the safety issue for some time, but management would not improve lighting. The strike by 10,000 workers is part of the stream of US private sector strikes dubbed "Striketober". The apparent accident happened near the car park which strikers at the distribution centre use when picketing. One striker...

"Striketober": strikes spread in US private sector

The recent flurry of strikes taking place in the US, dubbed “Striketober” is perhaps not yet a wave, but definitely a noticeable stream. Of about 190 strikes up to 22 October, 40 took place in October. So far the number of strikers is smaller than the almost half a million in 2018 (and almost as many in 2019), which were the highest figures since 1986. In 2020 there were many small strikes and workplace actions, often over safety in the pandemic, but striker-numbers were way down. There are some struggles potentially in the offing which could push the whole thing onto a bigger scale. Disputes...

Metal workers win 5-6% in South Africa

The last two issues of Solidarity reported on a major strike by metal and engineering workers in South Africa, members of the left-wing NUMSA union. The strike is now over. It looks like the union has given more ground than the bosses. NUMSA’s demand was an 8% increase for all workers in the first year of a deal, then inflation plus 2% in the following two years. The employers offered 4.4%, then inflation plus 0.5% and inflation plus 1%. The settlement is 6% each year for the lowest paid, and 5-5.5% for better paid workers. Inflation is currently running at about 5%. If it falls, the deal...

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