|Representatives from Mexico, Brazil, France, South Africa and India join UE in front of the Haymarket Memorial in Chicago|
April 22, 2014
International Participation at the Labor Notes Conference
More than a dozen delegates from UE’s close international allies participated in the Labor Notes Conference, joining the more than 50 UE officers, members and staff who participated attended. All told, the gathering of some 2,000 U.S. labor activists included more than 90 labor leaders and activists from other countries.
Lenin González Tellez, a young leader of the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT), elected to a top leadership position only a month earlier, was enthusiastic about the event. “Labor Notes is a great experience. One can find many brothers and sisters in the struggle, it is a place to laugh, learn, heal the wounds of the struggle, think and move forward filled with hope. It is a mural composed of the struggles that each and every day are changing the world, including those by the UE sisters and brothers who with bravery and strength joyfully advance, building the future.”
Presentations on a Wide Range of Issues
|Benedicto Martinez and Lenin Gonzalez at Labor Notes|
The international participants joined numerous panels where they shared their experiences on topics that included precarious work; the Trans-Pacific Partnership; the fight against nuclear power and for public funding of renewable energy; and campaigns to stop U.S. military intervention abroad and instead promoting international policies that benefit workers everywhere.
Both Zenroren delegates were inspired by their experiences. Arata Ebana, General Secretary of Zenroren’s Precarious Workers Center, was excited to learn that so many grass-root activists are struggling to mobilize workers and to try to solve the problems they face within their locals. “I learned that Labor Notes helps people to exchange their ideas and experiences and to advance,” he said.
Manabu Natori, now a Zenroren organizer, attended his first Labor Notes Conference in 2006. “I was always moved by the rank-and-file stories and passions,” he explained. “This year, stories from Hong Kong dock workers’ struggle were really inspiring. I hope to come back in 2016, with a bigger delegation from Zenroren.”
Alexandre Bento, Advisor for international relations for the CUT labor federation in Brazil, was impressed by the size and solidarity of the conference. “As Che Guevara said, ‘If the present is one of struggle the future will be one of hope!’ In this spirit, the CUT from Brazil stands together with all who struggle for justice and rights. The Labor Notes conference presents to the world a people who struggle and move forward together in the name of their convictions, certainly a good example to follow!”
Responding to the Precarization of Work
|Milind Ranade from NTUI lays roses at the memorial to the Haymarket martyrs|
Following the Labor Notes Conference, representatives of UE and international union allies from France, Japan, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa met for the first time to begin to develop a joint response to the huge growth worldwide of precarious work. There are workers who lack permanent jobs and are instead hired as part time, temporary, or sub-contracted labor, with no security and few rights.
But before those discussions got underway, the group visited Forest Home Cemetery and Haymarket Square to see both monuments to the Haymarket martyrs, Chicago labor activists framed and executed for their role in the movement for the eight-hour day. Benedicto Martínez Orozco, general secretary of STIMAHCS/FAT and a vice-president of Mexico’s National Union of Workers, commented on the importance of visiting this international labor shrine. “To come to Chicago is to remember the great struggles of the workers’ movement and to learn at Labor Notes about current struggles being waged by teachers and young people fighting deportations. It gives us hope that they have not been able to extinguish the spark that was lit by the martyrs of Chicago in 1886.”