News (Labor News Edition) from Around the Globe, September 2, 2012 Today’s edition focuses exclusively on Labor News from around the globe. Today’s articles are somber, and often quite depressing as they highlight the struggles endured by hundreds of millions around the world. In America, organized Labor is a convenient punching bag for both parties. However, in many countries around the world, simply belonging to a union can actually place one’s life in jeopardy. Think about that while you’re planning your Labor Day cookout. In some countries being involved in the Labor Movement is a life and death issue.
The story of the American Labor movement is one which is written in blood. The lives of thousands were lost in the struggle for the rights that are now enjoyed by all Americans, ironically, even by those who espouse some of the most noxious anti labor rhetoric. Some were killed in armed battle; some were killed by the unsafe working conditions which Labor was fighting to eradicate. I hope that everyone reading this will take a few moments this weekend to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives to bring human dignity to all workers; as well as the ongoing struggles being fought today.
In my opinion, the most egregious labor battle being waged today is happening in South Africa. The Marikana miner’s strike has resulted in the deaths of 46 people and the use of an archaic common law principle to bring murder charges against 270 miners. For now, the murder charges against the 270 miners have been withdrawn pending an official investigation. While it is unlikely that the murder charges will be reinstated, the deflection from the real issues which led to the strike has been a complete and total success. Now, the focus is on whether or not the State is correct to charge the miners with murder. The State is doing everything in its power to crush this strike and cast the strikers as the villains. Due to the importance of this story I’m including several links for readers who wish to learn more of the story’s background and its current status.
http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/phosa-slams-npa-over-miners-charg... ANC official condemns murder charges.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/29/marikana-turning-poi... Opinion piece but with important background information on the strike.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/23/us-impalaplatinum-southafrica-... Now the monied class is noticing the working class. When the rich notice the workers it won’t be long before the State tries to smash the worker’s movement.
Do you remember Marc Rich who was pardoned by President Clinton? Well, he started a little company named Glencore. Glencore is the world’s largest commodity trading company which reported revenues of 186 Billion dollars in the year 2010. To put that in proper perspective consider that in 2010 only three African countries (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa) had Gross Domestic Products greater than Glencore’s reported revenues. So why am I discussing Glencore? Because workers at the largest Colombian coal mine, which is owned by Glencore, have just had their strike declared legal.
Colombia is the world’s 4th largest exporter of coal. However, Colombian minors work in some of the most dangerous mines in the world. Workers at the Glencore open pit mine are striking for safer working conditions and higher wages. In Colombia, if a strike lasts longer than 60 days the government must set up a settlement committee to bring the strike to an end. The strike began on July 19 and is rapidly approaching the 60 day mark without any worker concessions being granted from the world’s largest commodity company. Now, I wonder what former President Clinton thinks about the way Marc Rich’s company is treating the miners in Colombia?
The above article is from June 30, 2012. The focus of the article is on the Northern Mexican factories (Maquiladoras) that supply cheap labor to foreign owned plants. The wages of the workers are not enough to support their families. Workers, who have no running water or electricity in their homes struggle to live on less than 10 dollars a day. Unionization is fought not only by the factory owners, but by the local governments. Union corruption is rampant. Often, the union bosses are working for the interests of the factory owners, instead of their union members. The struggle for labor rights in Mexico is still in the infancy stage.
India has a very active labor movement. However, due to the size of India it’s exceedingly easy for businesses to abuse workers. Here are some of the bigger stories from 2012.
Strike against India’s largest carmaker turns deadly.
A coalition of unions called for a National Strike in February of 2012. The strike took place as planned but its impact is questionable. Analysis is here:
Labor unrest is expected to grow as worker’s see their wages outpaced by the cost of living.
China has a long history of labor abuse. Too often, Americans refuse to demand that their Chinese imports be made in humane labor conditions. Calls are growing within China itself for an end to the forced labor camp system. As China becomes more industrialized the Chinese labor movement will grow in strength and the State will use its power to ensure a supply of cheap labor.