Saturday, May 21, 2016
LabourStart conference in Toronto promotes worker solidarity and new Atkins book on migrant workers; the neoliberal takeover in Latin America
TORONTO, Canada – LabourStart “might be the most efficient campaign organization for global labor” in the world, former Communications Workers of America international president and current top Bernie Sanders labor adviser Larry Cohen told activists and organizers from around the world here this month.
Cohen was one of several key speakers at LabourStart’s May 6-8 Global Solidarity Conference in Toronto. The London-based organization indeed calls itself the “news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement” and reaches a global audience of thousands of labor activists around the world. Its campaigns have helped free jailed activists as well as boost and gain success for labor campaigns.
Workers need organizations like LabourStart in a global economy where mega-corporations work hand in hand with governments to push a neoliberal agenda that enriches the powerful while impoverishing the working class and the poor, Cohen and others at the conference said.
“U.S. labor is trapped,” Cohen said. “It’s in this box. … Under 7 percent of workers in the private sector are organized. When I grew up in Philadelphia, it was 35 percent.”
Cohen pointed to the importance of ongoing campaigns such as strike by some 40,000 workers against the practices of corporate giant Verizon. “It’s a real strike, not a symbolic strike. The Verizon CEO makes $18 million a year and wants to limit the health care options of workers.”
Other speakers at the conference included Lee Chuck-Yan, general-secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. Labor South interviewed Lee during a visit to Hong Kong back in the summer of 2013. (See Labor South: http://laborsouth.blogspot.com/2013/07/hong-kong-communists-capitalists-versus.html)
(Leaflet promoting The Strangers Among Us)
Another highlight of the Toronto conference was a panel discussion with yours truly, Labor South founder and writer Joseph B. Atkins, talking about my new book, The Strangers Among Us: Takes from a Global Migrant Worker Movement. The book will be published by the conference sponsor, LabourStart, in June and features essays by 10 writers from around the world on the global migrant worker issue and workers’ rising consciousness of their rights.
“From tobacco workers in North Carolina to Vietnamese domestic workers in Taiwan and the network of organizations that support them, a movement is emerging that will pose a growing challenge to neoliberal rule,” says a flyer promoting the book that was distributed at the conference.
LabourStart has hosted several international conferences in cities as far-flung as Sydney, Istanbul and Berlin. The Toronto conference wasn’t without controversy. An estimated 60 of the hundreds of activists who registered to come were denied visas, and at least one was detained at the Toronto airport. Those denied visas were coming from places such as Bangladesh, Jamaica and Afghanistan.
The neoliberal class war is underway
Recent international developments in Central and South America point to the desperate need for progressive, pro-labor forces to join together and fight the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that is leading to right-wing takeovers in Brazil, Argentina, Honduras and other Latin American countries.
The recent ouster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in a bogus impeachment effort essentially amounts to a coup by the right wing, which has succeeded in putting into power unelected former vice president Michel Temer, a pro-corporate shill himself implicated in a widespread corruption scandal involving the oil company Petrobras.
Supporting the Brazilian Senate’s impeachment efforts against Rousseff, of course, is fellow right-winger Mauricio Macri in Argentina.
Labor South has followed closely Macri’s rise to power in Argentina after visiting there in 2015. (Labor South: http://laborsouth.blogspot.com/2016/02/what-eva-peron-would-say-to-mauricio.html)
Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has anything but clean hands in the rise of a brutal dictatorship in Honduras that overthrew a reformist regime. Under Clinton’s watch, the United States gave its approval to a takeover that has turned Honduras into one of the world’s most dangerous and repressive countries.