New York’s bus and subway workers, who shut down the US’s largest transit system for three days last month, have voted down the contract they were offered by seven votes.
This agreement had called for wage rises of 3% in the first year, 4% in the second and 3.5% in the third, and an additional paid holiday. It would also have required workers to contribute 1.5% of their salaries toward their health insurance premiums. The union’s executive board, who were recommending the deal, put the vote down to a threat made by Governor Pataki, who refused to promise to ratify the pensions deal.
The union still faces penalties for violating state law that prohibits strikes by public employees. Under the Taylor anti-union law, workers forfeited two days’ pay for each day on strike. The union was fined $3 million (£2 million) in a court decision that is under appeal.
The employers, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), have said it intends to ask the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to revoke union dues collections through automatic payroll deductions.
Mansour Osanloo, President of the Tehran bus company union, remains in prison a month after he led strikes in the Iranian capital. Osanloo is also being denied access to a lawyer and to the medical attention he needs. Spurious accusations have been made against him, including contacts with Iranian opposition groups abroad and incitement to armed revolt against the authorities. The bank accounts of the union’s steering committee have been blocked and their wages are no longer being paid.
On 22 December armed police raided the homes of leaders and members of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company. After strike action on 25 December by 4,000 workers, some of those detained were released, but others remained in prison. Workers originally took action for a pay rise and payment of overdue wages.
In the past few months, the Iranian regime’s repressive acts against union activists have intensified. Five activists of the 2004 May Day rally in the city of Saqez were recently sentenced to prison and exile. Despite the widespread condemnation and protests in Iran and internationally, these sentences have still not been quashed. The regime has also stepped up its harassment of students at the universities.
More than a dozen strikes by more than 40,000 workers in Vietnamese export processing zones have forced the government to raise the country’s minimum wage by nearly 40%.
The unofficial strikes indicate the increased frustration among workers who are only allowed to affiliate to government-run unions.
Before this recent wave of strikes, the Vietnamese government had not raised the minimum wage in six years. At the same time, inflation rose by 28%.
Many of the strikes took place in foreign companies, with workers citing communication problems with non-Vietnamese managers. For example 18,000 workers walked out at Freetrend, a Taiwanese company whose factory makes shoes for brands like Nike and Adidas.
Anyone wanting an antedote to the Castro-loving nonsense on Cuba peddled by most of the left should go to a new website on Cuban Trotskyism. It is run by Gary Tennant and features his PhD thesis on Cuban Trotskyism from the 1920s to the 1960s, when Castro and Guevara snuffed it out.
The Cuban Trotskyists were a significant force within the workers’ movement for decades. Gary made some of his research available in Revolutionary History magazine Volume 7, No. 3, Spring 2000: The Hidden Pearl of the Caribbean: Trotskyism in Cuba.
However the website promises to make much more primary material on Cuban Trotskyism available, putting the whole period of the Cuban revolution in a different light from the usual histories. We should support this important work.