labor

Kentucky: unpaid miners block rail line

For over a week now, some 100 laid-off miners and their families have occupied a railroad track in Kentucky's Harlan County, blocking a train loaded with coal that the workers dug out of the earth but never got paid for. The miners want their jobs back, if possible—but first of all, they want their wages for the work they already did. Blackjewel LLC abruptly shut down all its mines July 1 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Partway through a shift, workers were told the bad news and sent home. The miners never got their last paycheck. And their second-to-last paycheck, already deposited, disappeared from their bank accounts. The miners also never received any paper notice of their layoff, which proved a bureaucratic obstacle when they filed for unemployment. 

Worker protests in China's automotive sector

Employees at Hubei Meiyang Automobile Industry Co., Ltd. staged a demonstration on July 25 to protest "illegal dismissals, wage arrears and compensation payments." Meiyang Auto, a "new energy" start-up based in the central city of Xiangyang, had been in production for less than two years before halting operations. One day earlier, workers at Eastone Automotive in Shanghai's Pudong district staged a protest claiming they were owed around 40 million yuan in wages in arrears stretching back to the beginning of the year. Employees claimed they were being forced to leave without any compensation, and appealed to the local government for help. And on July 23, workers staged a protest demanding the payment of wages in arrears from a Cadillac dealership in Taizhou, Zhejiang, that had suddenly closed down without warning. So far this year, China Labour Bulletin's Strike Map has recorded 25 collective protests by workers in the automotive sector, up from just five in the same period last year. The protests, mostly related to layoffs and wage arrears, have occurred in car plants, components factories, dealerships and service centers, and even car rental agencies.

Land defender slain in DR Congo

A member of the Congolese environmental and human rights organization RIAO-RDC was killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm-oil company Feronia Inc on July 21, near the company's Boteka plantation in Bempumba, Eqauteur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The killing follows months of intimidation directed at members of RIAO-RDC, who are supporting local communities in filing a grievance against the company for its occupation of their lands. Joël Imbangola Lunea operated a motor-boat to transport people and goods between local villages and the city of Mbandaka. He was also a community activist and member of the NGO Information & Support Network of the DRC (RIAO-RDC), and was involved in mediating land disputes in the area. He was killed when his boat, filled with passengers and their luggage, was approached by a security guard who accused him of transporting stolen palm oil from the plantation. He was beaten and finally strangled to death, his body thrown into the Moboyo River. The security guard is now said to be in hiding.

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters)  At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)

Peru: more indigenous protests over oil spills

A new rupture on the disaster-plagued North Peruvian Pipeline fouled local water sources that several indigenous communities depend on in Peru's rainforest region of Loreto. The spill occurred June 19 at kilometer 227 on the pipeline, in Manseriche district, Datem del Marañón province. The government's Environmental Evaluation & Fiscalization Organism (OEFA) is overseeing recovery efforts, but the local communities of Nuevo Progreso and Saramiriza are demanding emergency potable water deliveries, saying they have been without clean water since the spill. Pipeline operator PetroPeru is blaming the rupture on "an act of delinquency" by local residents. (Gestión, EFE, June 23; InfoRegion, Gestión, June 19)

Mexico: double assassination of indigenous leaders

The Emiliano Zapata Popular and Indigenous Council of Guerrero (CIPOG-EZ) is calling upon the United Nations to investigate following the assassination of two leaders of the organization. The bodies of José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián were found May 5 in the town of Chilapa de Alvarez, where they had days earlier been abducted on a road by unknown gunmen. Both were leaders of the Nahua indigenous community in Chilapa municipality, had served as representatives to the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), and had promoted the 2017 presidential candidacy of María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known as "Marichuy," a Nahua woman who won the support of both the CNI and Mexico's Zapatista rebels. Both were abducted when they were returning to their communities in outlying villages of Chilapa municipality from a meeting of indigenous leaders in the Guerrero state capital, Chilpancingo. (Enlace ZapatisaSomos el Medio, Prensa Latina)

Honduras: riots, repression amid neoliberal 'reform'

In the wake of angry protests that swept through Tegucigalpa April 29, Amnesty International is denouncing attacks against human rights defenders by Honduran security forces during the unrest. Amnesty charged that riot police used tear-gas outside the headquarters of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), where demonstrators tried to take shelter. Members of the group were also detained. The prelude to the protests also saw detention and harassment of social leaders across Honduras. On April 19, Míriam Miranda and Aurelia Arzú, leaders of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), were stopped and briefly detained by National Police at a road checkpoint in Sabá, Colón department. Miranda has continued to face arbitrary detention and harassment despite being under an official order of protection due to threats against her. 

White House exploits Iran democracy struggle

As in the Venezuela crisis, Donald Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, is making a cynical pretense of concern for democracy in Iran. Fortunately, his latest bit of exploitation of the Iranian protesters has blown up in his face.  Noting the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, he issued a tweet yesterday featuring a meme with an image of a student protester from the 2017 anti-austerity uprising and the words: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure. The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future." He also tweeted the same message in the Persian language. Today, the courageous photographer who snapped the image at the University of Tehran in December 2017, Yalda Moayeri, comes forward to express her outrage at its co-optation by Trump, telling the New York Times:  "I felt cheated and abused, it causes me great sorrow to see the man who is inflicting so much pain upon me and my compatriots to use my image for his own agenda. I did not take this risk to have someone using it to pressure us Iranians even further." She added: "His sanctions are devastating our lives. Our money became worthless. People are becoming poor. Because of his travel ban, many Iranians cannot visit their family members in the United States. My father lives there and I can't go either. I just don't want to be any part of his agenda against Iran."

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