Victory for Leather Industry Workers as Strikes Spread

January 2, 2010

After a 53-day strike (the longest in Iraq since 1931) won workers in the leather industry the release of long promised safety benefits and back wages, FWCUI-affiliated unions are at it again, this time organizing Baghdad cotton factory workers and announcing a strike for similar demands, now entering its 19th day. There is yet a another strike, this one in the industrial area of Nahrawan (east of Baghdad) at al-Thalal brick factory. This strike began on the 23rd of December. If these actions are any indication, organizing in the industrial sector is really catching fire in Iraq. In the face of such effective and uncompromising direct action, the Iraqi authorities –surprise, surprise—have stepped up their attempts to interfere, by “relocating” organizers to out of the way offices, or simply firing them. The most threatening of these attempts though, takes the form of planned union federation elections, which the FWCUI considers to be a sham meant only to confer legitimacy on the state-backed federation. This then may lead to the very Ba’athi move of banning of all ‘unrecognized’ unions.

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One Response to “Victory for Leather Industry Workers as Strikes Spread”

  1. Futureofthelabormovement Says:

    This is totally inspiring news that people have the courage to walk out on strike – and have won concrete material resources while doing so – even after the repression of the occupation. Labor activists in Iraq have something to tell those of use outside Iraq, especially in the northern powers where unionism has stagnated in some places. I have some questions for folks working on labor solidarity with Iraq and familiar with the movement there:

    1. What ideas inspire union activists in Iraq? Due to Cold War repression inside the U.S., socialist or class-based thought was almost entirely wiped out of the movement. So we ended talking a lot about protecting the right to be “middle class” and what not, which I think really alienated U.S. unions from other labor struggles around the world. What intellectual and political ideas are guiding leaders in Iraq?

    2. Are the connections between the FWCUI and labor movements outside Iraq? There are growing and hugely important economic linkages between southern countries like India, Brazil, and Thailand – that I think can provide resources and challenges to the European and North American powers (thinking about Brazil and India manufacturing their own AIDS drugs, for example, to avoid outrageous prices of U.S. drugs). But I think these kinds of connections are even more important when unions can work across national boundaries. What linkages to Iraqi activists have with others in the region?

    3. What, ideally, would be the FWCUI’s relationship to the Iraqi government (I know that government could take many forms – especially given the blog post above). In the U.S., the labor movement has largely stayed away from government, focusing on collective bargaining with companies (which turned out to be a huge mistake I think), whereas in Europe and South America we see unions being a part of coalition social democratic governments (which also comes at a price). Given the history of some unions being fronts for government tyranny, how could a labor coalition influence government policy in Iraq without being destroyed by it? And how is this shaped by the U.S.’s ongoing pressure to wholly privatize, deregulate, and deunionize all economic life in Iraq?

    Keep on blogging because we need this info up here in the U.S……


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