By Mark Osborn
On 15 October, at the same time as the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions leader, Subhi al Mashadani was being shouted down at Alexandra Palace, Conway Hall was packed for a benefit night with comedians Mark Thomas and Simon Munnery, to raise money for the Basra Unemployed Workers’ Centre, linked to the Union of the Unemployed of Iraq.
The UUI’s view is that: “The ‘resistance’ of the ethnocentric and Islamist groups is reactionary… ‘Occupation’ and ‘resistance’ are two poles of the same reactionary camp… The real basis for struggle against the USA’s new world order is the workers, the proletarians, and their programme, liberty and equality.”
The benefit raised more than £900 for the Iraqi unionists, and heard a speech from Houzan Mahmoud, a British representative of the UUI.
It was organised by No Sweat.
No Sweat also helped to organise an anti-sweatshop seminar at Alexandra Palace on Saturday afternoon. A hundred people heard Abdel Mabrouki (Stop Précarité, France), Yannick Etienne (Batay Ouvriye, Haiti) and others discuss campaigning strategies.
Later on Saturday, members of No Sweat and the GMB union joined the samba band, Rhythms of Resistance, for an anti-sweatshop protest in London’s West End.
We started at Puma on Carnaby Street (Chinese workers paid 31 cents an hour for 16.5 hour days), marched to NikeTown in Oxford Circus (Indonesian workers paid around $60 per month), and H&M (Indonesian workers working 60 hours per week for as little as $1 per day). Then we marched east down Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road past the Virgin Megastore.
While the band played, union organisers and No Sweat people were inside stores handing out leaflets to staff — part of the GMB campaign to unionise shop workers in the run-up to Xmas.
We were joined by workers from Virgin Megastores in France — members of the French union federation, the CGT — who gave out leaflets denouncing the victimisation of a union spokesperson in March.