Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
This the second in an occasional blog series highlighting how workers and unions around the world are analyzing the global economic crisis and fighting for economic justice.
Happy May Day! Today is a time to celebrate the global labor movement and it is a perfect time to find out what workers around the world are doing to respond to the global economic crisis. (Check out photos and reports from May Day rallies around the world here and this report from BBC).
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a May Day declaration that outlines key points for "a full-scale transformation of the world economy... built on social justice." The ITUC also recently launched a new webpage called "Global Financial Crisis Unions' Watch" that gathers "articles, statements, press releases and opinions from trade unions on the financial crisis, its causes, the impact on society, the economy and particular groups, the responses and the efforts of states and International Organizations and the solutions, including proposals for world-wide solutions, implementation of the Decent Work agenda and Green Jobs." Check out a May Day video message from ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder below and at the end of this post is another May Day video message from Sharan Burrow, President of the ITUC and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
An excellent report from NPR's Morning Edition this week describes how labor deregulation over the years in Japan have led to a huge number of temporary workers in the labor force who get less pay, fewer benefits and are not as protected by unionization. These types of employment schemes have been a growing trend all over the world and are being accelerated by the global economic crisis. In Japan, there is a growing movement for hakenmura, or villages for laid-off temporary workers. These encampments provide some basic services including free legal and employment advice for laid-off workers and the homeless. They are also being used as a way to call attention to the crisis and increase the pressure on government agencies to take action to support workers.
France, US, China and Britain
This recent article from the Guardian, "Marches, sit-ins, violence... the workers are now comrades," includes reports from writers around the world about the range of protests workers are launching in reaction to the global economic crisis.
China and Honduras
This recent article by Hannah Grene, researcher with the International Human Rights Network, explains why the global recession should not be an excuse for companies to ignore human rights. The article references the specific case of workers at the Russell factory in Honduras. (By the way, the entire University of California system recently joined many other universities across the country in cutting its contract with Russell in solidarity with these workers).
Reports from Iran today say that workers have been beaten and arrested at a May Day rally and celebration in Tehran. Organizers were arrested and crowds were forced out of the park by baton and tear gas. Stay tuned for more updates!
This week, due to pressure from SEIU and many other progressive organizations, Bank of America shareholders voted to oust Ken Lewis as Chairman of the company's board. While they didn't kick Ken all the way out, this is a major change for one of the biggest banks in the country. Over 90,000 people signed "taxpayer proxy cards" calling for Ken Lewis to be fired for his management of the bank, poor treatment of workers, lobbying against the Employee Free Choice Act and other bad decisions.
AND if you are in the US, don't forget to hit the streets today to support immigrant rights! May Day has become a major rallying point for the immigrant rights movement and people in cities all across the country will be marching today to support rights for all workers. Click here for a calendar of many of the events.