Organising to fight the global exploiters

Submitted by on 29 November, 2002 - 4:41
  • Conference Report By Vicki Morris
  • No Sweat organiser excluded from ESF - Protest for liberty!
  • Fight Doc Marten job losses By Mick Duncan

Over 160 young activists and trade unionists enjoyed the discussions, debates and planning at the recent No Sweat/Student Campaign conference, held in London on Saturday 23 November.

Mexican trade unionists Gaby Cabrera and Josefina Ponce were warmly received as they spoke about the battle to throw out a corrupt trade union organisation at the KukDong-Mexmode factory. The largely women workforce recently fought a massive and victorious battle to win recognition for their independent union, wage increases and an improvement in the factory food.

By doing so they have organised a maquila (production for export) factory, proving those who said such unionisation was impossible absolutely wrong. This is a tremendously significant battle - a warning to the bosses of the future that faces them across Central and Latin America.

Jean Lane and Martin Smith from the GMB union discussed the recent experience of No Sweat in East London where activists and trade unionists have united to expose sweatshop conditions and pay as low as £3.75 per hour. They have been rewarded within the last week by massive publicity from the London evening paper, the Standard, who splashed the information they had unearthed across the front and several inside pages.

Campaign activists from Corporate Watch ran an informal discussion about how to research companies. Celia Mather and Selma Hayek spoke about the fight in Indonesia and Mick Duncan from No Sweat spoke of the pressing need to build a massive campaign capable of uniting trade unionists and youth and students to confront the sweatshop bosses.

Debates took place on the significance of the European Social Forum, held recently in Florence, Italy, and on the nature of globalisation, where Martin Thomas argued that the way forward was international workers unity not a retreat backwards towards utopian islands where ethical consumption can take place, or to narrow nationalist responses to global capitalist development.

Jane Turner speaking for the co-sponsors of the Mexican workers' visit, the Central American Womens' Network (CAWN) spoke together with Mark Osborn from No Sweat about the strategy for campaign activists. Mark argued that the tactics of the movement should be judged from their ability to promote workers' self-organisation.

Eric Lee and Laura Muir examined the experience of the mass movement in the US, where the USAS anti-sweatshop initiative has become the biggest campus initiative since the anti-Vietnam war actions in the 60s and 70s.

Other speakers included members of War on Want, the Simon Jones Campaign and the Student Campaign Forum (SCF).

The conference ended in the only way possible, with people marching down to the picket line at Euston fire station, where the campaign and tube workers gave messages of solidarity to the striking fire fighters.

No Sweat organiser excluded from ESF - Protest for liberty!

On the night of Wednesday 6-Thursday 7 November the No Sweat coach travelling from London to Florence for the European Social Forum gathering was stopped at the Swiss-Italian border for several hours.

Mick Duncan, national secretary of No Sweat was pulled off the coach and served a notice banning him from entering Italy for one week.

Mick was due to speak at the No Sweat ESF Forum, being co-hosted with the Clean Clothes Campaign, which took place on Friday 8 November.

His was not charged or accused of any offence - just banned for unspecified reasons. This is an outrage against all radical organisations' rights to meet, talk and discuss.

At 4.30 on Wednesday 4 December No Sweat will be handing a huge protest postcard, addressed to the right-wing Prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, at the Italian embassy in Grosvenor Square, London (Bond Street tube).

Come and join us and protest for liberty!
To add your name to our postcard, which reads, 'We protest against the exclusion of No Sweat secretary, Mick Duncan, from Italy and the arrest of ESF activists. For free movement and organisation!', email admin@nosweat.org.uk

Fight Doc Marten job losses
By Mick Duncan

Northamptonshire company R Griggs Group, the makers of Doc Marten boots and shoes, is closing all its production facilities in Britain, mostly in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, and moving production to China.

They say that they want to exploit the cheap labour conditions there, and that more than 1,000 jobs will be lost here.

China is the biggest sweatshop in the world: no unions, starvation wages, forced overtime, an appalling lack of health and safety protection. All this is what Griggs (whose owner has a personal fortune of £90 million) is looking to exploit.

We are not protesting against Chinese workers having jobs - quite the opposite, our protest is in solidarity with Chinese workers against their own state and bosses. All workers should have the right to work, earn a decent wage and be members of a free trade union.

Come and wave a banner, and hand out some leaflets, and help to show the Griggs workers that they are not facing this alone.

Protest at DM shop in Covent Garden, central London at 1-4 King St, from 12-1pm on Saturday 7 December

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